The American Medical Association is urging governors across the country to oppose legislation prohibiting transition-related care for minors, calling such proposals “a dangerous governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine.”
In an open letter Monday to the National Governors Association, the association’s CEO, James Madara, cited evidence that trans and nonbinary gender identities “are normal variations of human identity and expression” and said decisions about care belong in the hands of health care providers and families, not lawmakers.
“As with all medical interventions, physicians are guided by their ethical duty to act in the best interest of their patients and must tailor recommendations about specific interventions and the timing of those interventions to each patient’s unique circumstances,” Madara wrote on behalf of the organization’s members. “Such decisions must be sensitive to the child’s clinical situation, nurture the child’s short and long-term development, and balance the need to preserve the child’s opportunity to make important life choices autonomously in the future.”
Citing studies tying gender-affirming care for children to a decrease in anxiety, depression and suicide attempts, Madara said it was inappropriate for any state to limit options for physicians and families.
Earlier this month, Arkansas became the first state to ban transition-related care for transgender minors, when the GOP-controlled state Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican. Sponsors of the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act compare the restriction to other limitations placed on minors.
“They need to get to be 18 before they make those decisions,” said state Rep. Robin Lundstrum, a Republican.
At least 14 other states are considering similar legislation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Such efforts “would insert the government into clinical decision-making and force physicians to disregard clinical guidelines,” Madara warned in the letter.
“Transgender children, like all children, have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and can obtain the health care they need,” he continued. “It is imperative that transgender minors be given the opportunity to explore their gender identity under the safe and supportive care of a physician.”
The AMA, which has previously supported insurance coverage for transition-related services and opposed conversion therapy for gender identity or sexual orientation, joins other major health care associations in recognizing the medical necessity of transition-related care, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Pediatric Endocrine Society.
Debi Jackson, a Missouri mother of a 13-year-old transgender girl, said she was relieved to hear that the AMA had taken such a public stance.
“Any parent who has worked with a doctor knows this is the best standard of care universally,” Jackson said. “We’ve been praying for letters from these organizations. If anyone can explain why [these bans are] dangerous to lawmakers, it’s health care providers.”
At the same time, she said, “this is not something that should be political in the first place.”
“Defending your job and your knowledge is an uncomfortable position to be in,” she said, referring to doctors who would face criminal penalties under some of the state proposals.
A bill before the Texas state Senate would define providing gender-affirming care as child abuse, potentially sending parents to prison or removing children from their custody.
In Missouri, state Rep. Suzie Pollock, a Rerpublican, has sponsored a bill that would revoke the license of doctors who prescribed puberty blockers or hormones to minors.
“They can go to all the counseling and dress and change their name and whatever they want to do,” Pollock said, according to The Kansas City Star. “I just don’t want them medically treated with drugs. In what other area do we allow children to make those decisions so young?”
In 2016, Jackson’s trans daughter, Avery, appeared on the cover of National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” issue. Since then, Jackson said, her family has received support from medical providers across the country.
“We have had multiple doctors in other states reach out and say, ‘I want you to know we will take care of your kids,’” Jackson said. “They’re willing to put their neck out, because they care about these kids. Anyone who is offering transition care to kids is doing it because they really understand and are passionate about making sure these kids are healthy.”
Pollock’s bill has stalled in committee, but Jackson said she wouldn’t hesitate to leave Missouri to ensure Avery got the care she needed if it passes. (She is one of several parents who told NBC News they would consider moving if such medical bans passed in their state.)
“Go ahead and charge me with child abuse — I will take care of my daughter,” Jackson said. “I think a lot of politicians think they can intimidate us, but I don’t know a single parent of a trans kid that wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth for them.”
Transgender advocates in New York are celebrating after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced it will no longer prosecute sex workers.
“Over the last decade we’ve learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Wednesday in a statement.
The DA also announced approximately 6,000 prostitution-related open cases will be dismissed, including 900 cases dating back to the 1970s.
Cecilia Gentili, founder of Transgender Equity Consulting, in the statement called the decision “one of the most significant steps taken Nationally in the effort to stop criminalizing sex work.”
“This resolute action to actively decriminalize sex workers is the kind of change our community has been hoping for, advocating for, for decades,” Gentili said.
Trans people — especially trans women of color — are more likely to engage in sex work: The 2015 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found nearly 11 percent of transgender Americans reported having participated in the sex trade, including almost 40 percent of Black respondents and 33 percent of Latinos.
“For many transgender people, the sex trade can offer greater autonomy and financial stability compared to more traditional workplaces, with few barriers to entry,” the report read. “However, economic insecurity and material deprivation can increase one’s vulnerability to harm and decrease the ability to make self-determined choices.”
Many turned to it after facing rejection, discrimination and harassment in the traditional workforce.
Of the trans sex workers surveyed, almost 70 percent reported losing out on a promotion, being fired or facing other negative workplace outcomes as a result of their gender identity. Those who lost a job due to anti-trans discrimination were nearly three times as likely to engage in the sex trade, the survey found.
Vance described the decision to end prosecutions as an outgrowth of the office’s efforts to connect individuals arrested for prostitution with social services rather than pursue criminal charges.
“Now, we will decline to prosecute these arrests outright, providing services and support solely on a voluntary basis,” he said in the statement.
Vance called the backlog of cases, many going back decades, “a relic from a different New York, and a very real burden for the person who carries the conviction or bench warrant.”
The news comes just months after the New York Legislature repealed a law prohibiting loitering for the purpose of prostitution that critics say was disproportionately enforced against transgender women of color.
More than 5,000 of the cases dismissed this week were related to that statute, nicknamed the “walking while trans” ban.
“When you are an undocumented trans sex worker, having an arrest on your record can impact your efforts at immigration,” said Bianey Garcia, an advocate with the grassroots social justice group Make the Road New York. “It can hurt your chances at getting a job or a place to live.”
Garcia, a former sex worker, said the district attorney’s announcement “is proof the organizing we’re doing, the speaking out — it’s working.”
Vance’s office will continue to prosecute other crimes related to prostitution, including sex trafficking, patronizing sex workers and promoting prostitution, The New York Times reported.
Manhattan joins Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco and other jurisdictions that decline to prosecute sex workers.
Earlier this year, District Attorneys in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx also moved to dismiss all outstanding prostitution and loitering-related cases, indicating they will no longer prosecute such charges.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, trans activist and filmmaker Kristen Lovell was a sex worker in New York City’s Meatpacking District. She called the decision to stop prosecuting “monumental” for the trans community.
“Now, in the land of trans bans, we don’t have to prosecute people for trying to make a living,” she said.
Lovell said she was arrested dozens of times under the repealed “walking while trans” law.
“I’d just get off the subway and I’d be in cuffs,” she said. “We couldn’t even congregate on Christopher Street, an area that has historically been a safe space for our community. … Being a Black trans woman, you’d be chased out of the neighborhood.”
Police frequently assume transgender women — particularly trans women of color — are engaging in prostitution, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, which found a third of Black trans women and 30 percent of multiracial women said an officer had assumed they were sex workers.
“We’ve seen trans people call the police and the first question they’re asked is, ‘What are you doing here? Why are you dressed like that?’ instead of finding out what help they need,” Garcia said. “You just survived a crime, and they’re profiling you.”
The U.S. Transgender Survey also found nearly 9 out of 10 respondents who interacted with the police either while doing sex work or being incorrectly accused of being sex workers reported being harassed, attacked or sexually assaulted by law enforcement.
But ending prosecutions is just the start of repairing the relationship police have with the trans community, Lovell said.
“Trust has to be earned,” she said. “It’s going to take a while to build that. They need to reimagine policing.”
Like others, Lovell supports decriminalizing sex work nationwide. But she also wants more funding to enable trans women to leave the industry.
“For those who want to get out, there needs to be more job training, more mental health services,” she said. “And for those comfortable doing the work, it shouldn’t be demonized. It’s a job like any other.”
Suicide rates among young people have been on the rise in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but gay and bisexual youths are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers.
And, despite advances in the fight for LGBTQ equality, a new report finds that young gay people today are even more likely to have attempted suicide than in previous generations.
Researchers at the Williams Institute, a sexual orientation and gender identity think tank at UCLA School of Law, found that 30 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents ages 18 to 25 reported at least one suicide attempt, compared to 24 percent of those 34-41 and 21 percent of those 52-59.
The study, published last month in the journal PLOS One, also revealed that these young adults are experiencing higher levels of victimization, psychological distress and internalized homophobia than older generations.
“We had really expected it would be better for the younger group,” said lead author Ilan H. Meyer, a distinguished senior scholar of public policy at the institute. “But at the same time, we knew data from other studies has shown LGB youth do a lot worse than straight youth — and not much better now than in earlier times.”
Meyer and his colleagues surveyed 1,518 respondents who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (trans people were included in a separate study). Participants were divided into three cohorts: the “Pride” generation, those born from 1956 to 1963; the “Visibility” generation, born from 1974 to 1981; and the “Equality” generation, born from 1990 to 1997.
Using the Kessler Scale, a clinical measure of psychological distress, they found that members of the Equality generation reported almost twice as many symptoms of anxiety and depression as the Pride generation. Many factors influenced the data, Meyer said, including the fact that people are coming out younger than ever.
“That can be a positive, of course,” he said. “But it can also backfire and expose you to a lot of harassment and victimization. You might not be prepared for the consequences.”
Members of the Equality generation reported coming out to a family member at age 16 on average, compared to 22 for the Visibility generation and 26 for the Pride generation.
That can put them at risk of rejection at a time when they rely most on family for emotional and financial support, said Amy Green, vice president of research for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization.
According to a survey by the organization last year, 40 percent of LGBTQ youths ages 13 to 24 had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months.
“It’s not that the world isn’t making progress for LGBTQ people, it’s that recent progress has resulted in an amazing community of young people who understand who they are but still live in a world where others may be unkind to them, reject them, bully them or discriminate against them,” Green said in an email. “And we know these experiences of victimization can compound and produce negative mental health outcomes.”
The advent of social media and the internet has also greatly affected the Equality generation’s sense of identity.
“When we asked them about other people in the community, the younger group’s answers were always — always — about social media, not about real-life encounters,” Meyer said. “People are very cruel online, whether it’s Twitter or Grindr.”
Meyer said that before he examined interviews accompanying the survey, he expected to hear people in their teens and 20s present “a different way of being gay.”
“But one of the first narratives I listened to was from an 18-year-old Latino from San Francisco, and his narrative was the same as we’ve heard for generations — homophobia, exclusion, shame. The evolution [in LGBTQ rights] hadn’t impacted his life as much as you’d expect.”
Members of the Equality generation reported more anti-LGBTQ victimization than their older counterparts, Meyer said. Nearly 3 out of 4 (72 percent) said they had been verbally insulted about their identity, and almost half (46 percent) said they had been threatened with violence. More than a third (37 percent) reported having been physically attacked or sexually assaulted.
“I believe in the power of institutions and social structures changing. I really do,” Meyer said. “But I think real progress takes longer than we think. Just because we’re seeing change doesn’t mean every gay kid’s parents are accepting or that their friends are embracing them.”
There were some silver linings: Of the three groups, members of the Equality generation most reported feeling connected to the LGBTQ community.
“That was actually surprising, because we hear so much about people feeling like they don’t belong,” Meyer said. “But this suggests there is still pride, despite the difficulties and negativity, sometimes even from within our own community.”
Coming out younger has also given them more resiliency, he added.
“Coming out earlier gives you a great start on life, even if you face hardships,” he said. “This generation is already out when they get to college. They have a better sense of who they are. Older generations had to wait longer to live their authentic lives.”
If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.
Nearly 20 years after the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing consensual same-sex activity, the legacy of sodomy bans is still felt across the United States.
In 1993, then-18-year-old Randall Menges was charged under Idaho’s “crimes against nature” law for having sex with two 16-year-old males. All three worked and lived at Pratt Ranch, a cattle ranch in Gem County that doubled as a live-in foster program for troubled teenagers.
Menges was convicted despite police reports indicating the activity was consensual, and the age of consent in Idaho when a defendant is 18 is 16 years old. After serving seven years in prison, he was placed on probation and required to register as a sex offender.
Today, what Menges did wouldn’t be considered an arrestable offense. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that laws criminalizing consensual sodomy or oral sex were unconstitutional. But Idaho still requires people convicted of sodomy or oral sex before the Lawrence v. Texas ruling to be on the state sex offender registry.
His attorney, Matt Strugar, has challenged a similar statue in Mississippi and is representing Menges and a John Doe in a suit against Idaho’s sodomy ban.
Idaho, South Carolina and Mississippi still require people who were convicted of consensual sodomy before the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence to register as sex offenders, Strugar said, even though the court said what they did wasn’t a crime. There are probably hundreds of people in Menges’ predicament, and forcing them to register as sex offenders is a violation of their right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, he added.
“I’m outraged that in 2021 that we have what is essentially a registry of gay sex,” Strugar said.
Hoping to start a new life, Menges moved to Montana in 2018.
“I love the mountains and taking care of horses,” he said. “And I thought the fewer people I had to deal with the better.”
Even before the Montana Legislature officially repealed the state’s ban on same-sex activity — which the Lawrence ruling declared unconstitutional — in 2013, people convicted under the statute weren’t required to register as sex offenders. But a law passed in 2005 mandates that individuals on a registry in another state must register as sex offenders if they move to Montana.
Menges filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in December, challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s policy. In filings shared with NBC News, he said being on the registry “has damaged dozens of employment opportunities and personal relationships.”
No one believes him about why he has to register as a sex offender, he told NBC News. “If they find out, I lose their friendship,” he said. “Even girlfriends, they don’t buy it.”
The same month he filed his suit, Menges said he was turned away from a homeless shelter in Boise, which he returned to temporarily in 2020.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana did not return a request for comment on the case. In opening arguments March 30, Montana Assistant Attorney General Hannah Tokerud argued Menges was trying to get a Montana court to weigh in on Idaho law.
According to the Missoulian, she said the case doesn’t hinge on the validity of that statute, but rather “it hinges on whether he is required to register in Idaho.”
“Montana requires Menges to register not because of his criminal offense,” the state wrote in a motion to dismiss in January, “but because Montana gives credit to other states’ determinations about convicted offenders who are required to register.”
“Idaho has determined that Menges must register, and thus, when Menges moved to Montana he was required to register,” the state wrote.
But Strugar said Montana is trying to “pass the buck” to another state while continuing to enforce what he calls an “unlawful” policy.
Menges isn’t seeking to overturn his conviction, he said — the statute of limitations passed a year after his conviction. He just wants to be free of the shadow that’s been cast over his life.
“If someone’s not a molester or a rapist, they shouldn’t be subjected to what I have,” Menges said. “If we can change the law, at least it’ll have been worth it.”
Ultimately he’d like to return to Montana, where the cost of living is lower and he can work with horses.
“I’ve had a passion for horses since I was 6. I’d like to get my equine veterinary nursing degree and take care of them, maybe for a rodeo or for private individuals,” he said. “I just want to go where I want and make the choices I want without this hanging over me.”
The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that a lesbian couple can legally adopt a 3-year-old child who has lived with them since birth, overturning a lower court’s decision rejecting their petition.
In July 2020, Dixon County Judge Douglas Luebe said that he had no jurisdiction to grant an adoption to the couple — identified by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska as K.H. and M.V., who asked to keep their names anonymous — because they were listed in their petition as “wife and wife,” according to the Nebraska Supreme Court. In his order, Luebe referred to a version of Black’s Law Dictionary that defined “wife” as “a woman who has a lawful living husband.”
On Friday, the Nebraska high court rejected Luebe’s reasoning, maintaining that state adoption laws allow any married couple to adopt, provided both partners were listed on the adoption application.
Justice William B. Cassel wrote in a unanimous decision that Nebraska adoption law permits any minor child to be adopted by any adult person or persons. “The only caveat contained in the statute is that if the person had ‘a husband or wife,’ the husband or wife had to join in the petition.”
K.H. and M.V, who married in California in 2008, sought to adopt a child born to M.V.’s sister in 2017, according to court documents. The child’s biological mother had already relinquished her rights and the father never sought custody.
They filed for adoption in Dixon County Court in May 2020, but Luebe dismissed their request after calling a special hearing on legal issues raised by their petition, The Star Herald reported, during which he described himself as “old-fashioned.”
He determined the “plain, ordinary language” of Nebraska adoption law would not permit a “wife and wife” to adopt and warned that any other conclusion would transform the court into an “imagination station.”
Luebe did not respond to a request for comment but a spokesperson for the Nebraska Supreme Court told NBC News that Nebraska judges are prohibited from commenting on specific cases.
In opening arguments, the couple’s attorney, Matthew Munderloh, said K.H. and M.V had filled out all the required relinquishments and consent forms and completed a required home study and background checks.
Even if the “plain language” of the law didn’t permit them to adopt the child, Munderloh added, “the Constitution and Obergefell v. Hodges and its progeny require an interpretation that would allow the adoption to proceed.”
Sara Rips, LGBTQIA+ legal and policy counsel for the ACLU of Nebraska, joined in representing K.H. and M.V in their appeal. She was pleased the opinion came from Cassel, a textualist known to value the letter of the law.
She was also surprised at how quickly the ruling came in.
“They heard oral arguments on March 4 and issued an opinion on March 26 — which is unheard of,” Rips said. “Normally you expect two to three months.”
She added that the decision would help strengthen the understanding, both in Nebraska and nationwide, that not only is marriage equality the law of the land “but that all the rights that come with marriage apply equally.”
“They build on top of each other — when you win cases like this, you make it more clear LGBTQ rights are not a passing fad,” Rips said. “The more time that passes, the more cases that build up an institution, the more support you have that institution is not going away. You build that foundation brick by brick, case by case.”
Dixon County is a fairly rural section of northeast Nebraska, with less than 5,700 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Rips said her clients didn’t set out to become LGBTQ activists.
“They just want to adopt this child,” she said. “They want to be helpful, but they just want to be parents to a kid. That’s the most Nebaska thing — they don’t want this to be a big deal.”
In 2017, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling striking down a state policy prohibiting “persons who identify themselves as homosexuals”from becoming foster parents or adopting wards of the state. In his opinion, Justice John Wright slammed the policy as “legally indistinguishable from a sign reading ‘Whites Only’ on the hiring-office door.”
Rips said Friday’s ruling is further proof Nebraska is moving toward being more inclusive and accepting of the LGBTQ community.
“I know I have plenty of years of work ahead of me,” she said, “but we’ll get there.”
Julius’, a beloved New York City bar, has occupied the corner of Waverly Place and West 10th Street in the West Village for nearly 160 years. With little identifying it beyond its name in simple green cursive, the watering hole’s unassuming exterior belies its importance in gay rights history.
Like the Stonewall Inn just a few hundred feet away, Julius’ has been a lifeline to New York’s queer community for decades.
Now its owner is determined to make sure that legacy — and the bar itself— isn’t a casualty of the pandemic, which has devastated New York City nightlife.
Opened as a dry goods store in 1840, the building at 159 West 10th Street was already serving as a saloon by the 1860s. During Prohibition, Julius’ was a speakeasy, allegedly taking its name from the proprietor. Numerous unmarked doors and basement tunnels used for coal delivery allowed for quick escapes if the bar was raided, according to long-time bartenders Tracy O’Neill and Daniel Onzo.
Much of Julius’ remains unchanged from that era, including the long wooden bar with a century’s worth of “scratchitti” carved into it. Jacob Ruppert Brewery beer barrels serve as tables and stools.
Chandeliers dangling overhead are made from wagon wheels of horse-drawn carriages that once delivered ice.
Julius’ had started attracting a gay following at least by the 1950s and, according to local lore, was a popular hangout for midcentury queer luminaries like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Rudolf Nureyev.
But New York State Liquor Authority regulations at that time prohibited serving drinks to “known or suspected homosexuals,” whose very presence was considered disorderly behavior.
“This law was used to prevent the existence of gay bars, so the ones that did exist were under the control of the criminal underworld,” Randy Wicker, a member of the New York chapter of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights groups, said. Either the mob ran the establishment or bar owners would pay for protection to avoid being raided.
“It forced gay people into that underworld,” Wicker, 83, said. “It led to exploitation, blackmail, people being brutalized.”
Wicker said The Mattachine Society wanted to challenge the liquor laws. “We felt it was very similar to how Black people were being denied the right to sit at a lunch counter,” he said.
The idea for a protest, or a “sip-in” as it was eventually called, was inspired by the sit-ins of the civil rights movement: On April 21, 1966, four members of the New York Mattachine chapter walked into a bar, declared they were homosexuals and demanded to be served. Assuming they would be refused, the group planned to file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Julius’ was actually the fourth place the group hit that day, with Wicker joining Mattachine president Dick Leitsch, vice president Craig Rodwell and member John Timmons. The first bar they visited, the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant, had been tipped off and closed early.
At Howard Johnson’s, the group declared, “We’re homosexuals and we want to be served.”
“The waitress laughed and said, ‘No problem,’ and took the order,” Wicker said.
It was getting late and they were in danger of losing the reporters who had tagged along. Julius’, it turned out, was the perfect spot for their test case: It had a sizable homosexual following, Wicker said, but the management was determined not to let it become a “gay bar.”
“There had been an entrapment case recently — someone went home with an undercover policeman,” he said. “So they patrolled the bar very strictly. If there were too many men together inside, they’d stop letting men in unless you came with a woman.”
The group walked in and ordered, then Leitsch announced, “We are homosexuals. We are orderly, we intend to remain orderly, and we are asking for service.”
A New York Times photographer captured the moment the bartender put his hand over a glass and stopped making their drinks.
“I think it’s against the law,” he said, according to Wicker.
It was exactly the reaction Mattachine members had hoped for: Publicity from the “sip-in” led to the New York State Supreme Court ruling a year later that simply being gay — or even cruising or kissing — was not indecent behavior.
It didn’t just change liquor regulations, Wicker said. “It helped moved the gay community out of the grasp of the criminal world.”
“Because of LGBTQ discrimination by authorities, in policy and practice, there were really no other meeting places, no community centers,” he said. “Julius’ has been that space for so many people for so many years.”
And while New York’s gay bar scene has become a shadow of its former size — a victim of assimilation, gentrification and dating apps — Julius’ remained packed most weekends.
“I think there’s a pilgrimage aspect of it, especially for younger people,” Brian Sloan, a filmmaker who lived in the West Village for 20 years, said. “It has historical significance but it’s also a throwback to what gay bars used to be — lively, friendly, unpretentious. That’s harder to find now.”
Julius’ is still popular with celebrities — Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zachary Quinto and Neil Patrick Harris have all stopped in, according to staff and regulars — and it has appeared in numerous films, including the Oscar-nominated Melissa McCarthy movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “The Boys in the Band,” both William Friedkin’s 1970 movie and the 2020 Netflix adaptation by Ryan Murphy.
Director John Cameron Mitchell, who first ventured into Julius’ in 1985, calls it his “local bar.”
“It’s dripping with queer history,” he said. “The photos on the wall, the Mattachine sip-in. It really led to the legalization of gay bars in New York.”
In 2008, Mitchell launched a monthly dance party at Julius’ called, appropriately enough, Mattachine.
“[We] wanted to preserve the feeling of our favorite alt-queer bars where you could hear rock, new wave, soul, funk and even slow jams,” he said. “Every month we honored a queer icon, and if they were still alive they would show up.”
Honorees have included the neurologist Oliver Sacks, the punk rock impresario Danny Fields, the Village People’s Randy Jones and Leitsch himself. “We even cursed queer villains like Roy Cohn in absentia,” Mitchell said of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel. Cohn targeted government officials as communists and homosexuals, despite being gay himself.
There’s no denying Julius’ place in history but, by drawing hundreds of revelers late into the night, the Mattachine parties have helped keep the bar from turning into a museum piece.
In 2016, the 50th anniversary of the sip-in, Julius’ was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in “an important early event in the modern gay rights movement.”
Lustbader, who helped get the designation, said it’s mostly honorific and doesn’t protect the business itself, which has been hobbled by coronavirus lockdowns.
Once viewed as unwelcoming to the LGBTQ community, popular online matchmaker eHarmony has gone through a queer-friendly rebranding of late.
The site, which boasts more than 2 million messages a week, began offering same-sex matches in 2019. This winter, it launched its first queer-inclusive commercial, featuring a lesbian couple.https://www.youtube.com/embed/2Vfnym5MlZE
The ad, “I Scream,” is part of eHarmony’s current “Real Love” campaign and opens on a female couple in their kitchen. In between kisses, one woman tastes her partner’s cooking and makes it clear she’s not a fan. The pair wind up on the couch enjoying a pint of ice cream and going in for another peck.
“Being honest with each other,” a voiceover announces. “Saying yes to great ideas. eHarmony — here for real love.”
Gareth Mandel, chief operating officer at eHarmony, told NBC News it was important that “our ad campaigns, our platform, and everything else we do accurately reflect what real love, real dating and real relationships look like both today and always.”
“We’ve spent substantial time recently bringing our entire team together to formalize a company mission and values statement that reflects who we are today,” he said, “Explicitly reflecting a brand and a workplace that strives to be safe, inclusive and welcoming to each and every member of our community.”
The ad, and the “Real Love” campaign in general, are part of a sitewide revamp to move the company away from its conservative origins — but not everyone is on board with the company’s inclusive turn.
Launched in 2000 by Neil Clark Warren and his son-in-law, Greg Forgatch, eHarmony was different from most dating sites: Rather than allow members to pore through hundreds of profiles, it paired them based on a lengthy compatibility quiz.
And, initially, the site only offered heterosexual matches.
Publicly, Warren — a clinical psychologist, seminary professor and devout Christian — claimed that was because he had no expertise when it came to gay dating. But in 2005, before same-sex marriage was recognized in most states, he told USA Today, “We don’t really want to participate in something that’s illegal.”
In an interview with the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family in 2004, Warren said he had to be diplomatic about how he discussed the site’s lack of same-sex options.
“Cities like San Francisco, Chicago or New York — they could shut us down so fast. We don’t want to make enemies out of them,” Warren said. “But at the same time, I take a real strong stand against same-sex marriage anywhere that I can comment on it.”
In eHarmony’s early years, Warren frequently plugged the site on the radio program of evangelical author James Dobson, who co-founded Focus on the Family. The anti-LGBTQ organization also published several of Warren’s self-help books.
As eHarmony continued to grow, though, Warren distanced himself from the group. In 2005, he ended his appearances on Dobson’s show and bought the publishing rights to his books.
After settling a discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey in 2008, eHarmony agreed to launch Compatible Partners, a separate dating site that enabled users to make same-sex matches. It was an imperfect solution the Los Angeles Times referred to as a “shotgun wedding.” There was no link to Compatible Partners on the main eHarmony site, and those interested in both men and women had to buy two subscriptions, according to Mashable. It took another discrimination suit, this one in California, for the two sites to be reciprocal.
Warren retired from running eHarmony in 2007 but returned as chief executive in 2012. In a 2013 interview with CNBC, he lamented that his company was forced to “put up a same-sex site” and said gay marriage “has really damaged our company.”
“We literally had to hire guards to protect our lives, because the people were so hurt and angry with us,” he said at the time, because “Christian people” felt the company’s gay dating site was “a violation to scripture.”
Warren also suggested to CNBC that eHarmony invest $10 million to “figure out” homosexuality, which he called “at the very best … a painful way for a lot of people to have to live.”
Warren stepped down as CEO again in 2016 and is no longer involved with the company, according to Mandel. Since 2019, eHarmony has been led by a three-person team — Mandel, Chief Customer Care Officer Carlos Robles and Chief Financial Officer Stefan Schulze.
CompatiblePartners.com started redirecting to the main eHarmony site in November 2019. Mandel said the response has been largely positive, and LGBTQ usership has grown 109 percent year-over-year.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve taken several actions to become more of the company that we want to be,” he said. “One of our main objectives is to ensure we’re always striving to create a culture that’s diverse, inclusive and welcoming to all of our members and our employees. Our commitment to make sure our platform reflects that is a priority for us as a company.”
eHarmony’s benefits package for 2021 offers coverage for gender-affirming surgery, as well as equal parental leave, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and including adoptive and foster parents.
“While we’re proud of the changes we’ve made to our platform, we recognize that we have work left to do, and are committed to finding ways to be more inclusive to people of all gender identities and sexual orientations across all facets of what we do,” Mandel said.
While many have applauded eHarmony’s “LGBTQ epiphany,” the company’s “Real Love” campaign has put it in the crosshairs of the right-wing Christian group One Million Moms. The group, which is part of the conservative American Family Association, launched a petition Jan. 29 criticizing the “I Scream” commercial as an “attempt to normalize and glorify the LGBTQ lifestyle,” which it calls “unnatural and immoral.”
“This eHarmony ad brainwashes children and adults by desensitizing them and convincing them that homosexuality is natural,” a statement on the One Million Moms website reads, “when in reality it is an unnatural love that is forbidden by Scripture just like love rooted in adultery is forbidden.”
The petition, which calls on eHarmony to pull the spot, received more than 15,300 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
“I am extremely disappointed that eHarmony is refusing to remain neutral in the cultural war by pushing the LGBTQ agenda on families,” it reads in part.
The organization often opposes LGBTQ-inclusive programming and advertising. In October, it protested an Uber Eats commercialfeaturing Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and nonbinary “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness. In 2019, it targeted Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” for including a scene of two moms dropping their child off at school, and it called on Hallmark Channel to remove an ad for the wedding planning website Zola featuring a same-sex wedding.
The impact of OMM’s campaigns, though, is questionable at best: ”Toy Story 4” earned more than $1 billion worldwide at the box office without removing the offending scene; Uber Eats is still running the Jonathan Van Ness commercial; and after briefly pulling the Zola ad, Hallmark reinstated it and apologized for the “hurt and disappointment it has unintentionally caused.”
The House of Representatives last month passed the Equality Act, a landmark assemblage of LGBTQ anti-discrimination measures that’s gotten strong support from President Joe Biden.
If passed, the law would explicitly provide protections to LGBTQ people across key areas, including employment, housing, education, public accommodations and federally funded programs.
But one provision in the bill could also have a big impact on how the gay community interacts with the American legal system. It would bar attorneys from rejecting prospective jurors simply because they are LGBTQ.
Though there are some classifications that cannot be used as criteria for pre-emptive exclusion during jury selection — including race and gender — sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t among them currently.
That means a litigator can make sure a lesbian plaintiff in a discrimination suit has an all-straight jury. And a prosecutor can pre-emptively strike an LGBTQ juror from a case involving a transgender defendant.
Right now, Section 1862, title 28 of United States Code prohibits exclusion from jury service “on account of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status.” The Equality Act would amend the statute’s definition of sex to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sasha Buchert, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, an LGBQT rights group, said the provision can “help ensure that LGBTQ people are treated equally under the law.”
“The need for a fair jury selection process is especially important to the transgender community because a disproportionate number of transgender people come into contact with the criminal justice system,” she told NBC News.
Only eight states expressly prohibit peremptory challenges against LGBTQ jurors, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Efforts to pass a federal law have failed at least four times, most recently in 2019.
Without clear guidance, it is “certainly possible” a case on the matter could reach the Supreme Court, Buchert said.
Last week Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y, introduced the Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2021, a standalone bill that could make sexual orientation and gender identity protected categories in jury selection even if the Equality Act fails to cross the finish line.
“Juries are supposed to be reflective of the community,” Jones told NBC News. “But we don’t meet that constitutional standard when we allow entire swaths of the community to be kept out.”
The issue was first addressed by the courts in a 2014 pharmaceutical suit involving HIV drugs, when Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stopped Abbott Laboratories from dismissing a gay man from the jury.
“Gays and lesbians have been systematically excluded from the most important institutions of self-governance,” Reinhardt wrote in his opinion. “Strikes exercised on the basis of sexual orientation continue this deplorable tradition of treating gays and lesbians as undeserving of participation in our nation’s most cherished rites and rituals.”
Critics say it’s almost impossible to prove why a potential juror was rejected. If accused of striking someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, trial lawyers can always deny doing so and come up with another reason within the law. In the Abbott Laboratories case, attorneys for the company never gave a rationale for their peremptory challenge. It was Reinhardt who decided the reason was because one juror had mentioned his male partner during voir dire.
But the fight is personal for Jones. As a gay Black man and an attorney, he said he’s “distinctly aware of the discrimination that is permissible in the courtroom.”
And he doesn’t want to leave a potential remedy in the hands of the judicial system.
“We cannot rely on the Supreme Court, especially one with a 6-3 conservative majority, to evaluate our rights on a piecemeal basis,” he said.Jones, a former litigator in Westchester County, said if either the Equality Act or the Juror Non-Discrimination Act is enacted, “it will tell members of the LGBTQ community that there’s no place for discrimination in this country, starting with where equal treatment under the law comes from. There’s no other place that’s more American than our judicial system.”
He’s optimistic about the Equality Act’s chances but says there’d be a certain poetry if his first bill to become law was “one that affords dignity to the LGBTQ community.”
“I spent most of my life deathly afraid of people finding out I was gay,” he said. “I never thought someone like me could even run for Congress, so this would be extremely meaningful.”
Virginia lawmakers have approved legislation modernizing laws around HIV exposure.
Passed after two versions of the bill were reconciled, the legislationwould repeal the felony criminal ban on blood, tissue or organ donation by people with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; make HIV-testing for people convicted of certain crimes, including prostitution and drug charges, optional rather than mandatory; and strike down a statute making failure to disclose HIV-positive status before sex a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months jail time.
Intentional transmission of HIV, or “infected sexual battery,” would remain a felony in Virginia, rather than a misdemeanor, as proponents had hoped, but the new legislation would require proof of actual infection, rather than just exposure.
The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, who has until March 31 to sign the measure into law. While Northam has not specifically said he would sign the bill, he has previously signed pro-LGBTQ bills, including one requiring schools to create policies related to the treatment of trans students and a ban on so-called conversion therapy.
Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat, who introduced the bill with fellow Democrat and state Sen. Mamie Locke, said HIV criminalization laws are an ineffective public health tool that disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community and people of color.
“They target and stigmatize people who are HIV positive, even though being HIV positive is itself not a threat to public safety.” McClellan told NBC News. “It makes people less likely to disclose or get tested.”
There’s also the question of determining someone’s intention to expose a partner.
“It’s so hard to prove,” McClellan said. “There have been instances where you’ve had a bad breakup and someone will swear out a warrant, saying ‘You tried to infect me,’ or use it as a threat.”
In the intervening decades, understanding and treatment of HIV have grown exponentially. But leading health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the CDC itself, say the laws have not caught up with advances in science.
According to the CDC, many HIV laws criminalize behavior that cannot transmit the virus — including spitting or biting — and can be applied whether or not there is actual transmission. They also don’t account for advances in HIV medication, which can keep an individual’s viral load undetectable, presenting zero risk of transmission.
Before Saturday, only six states had modernized their criminalization laws since 2014: California, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington, according to the advocacy group Equality Virginia. Just one, Texas, has repealed its laws.
While Virginia’s law has rarely been enforced, between 2019 and 2020 three people in the state were convicted of felony infected sexual battery and misdemeanor sexual battery, according to the Roanoke Times.
McClellan’s bill, which made infected sexual battery a misdemeanor, passed the Senate 21-17 earlier this month. But a version keeping the felony charge intact cleared the House of Delegates 56-44 Friday. In negotiations to reconcile the two bills, the House version prevailed.
Some lawmakers were concerned the language in McClellan’s bill would allow someone to intentionally transmit HIV without fear of prosecution.
“I find it stunning that we would want to eliminate the felony for what is potentially fatal, deadly conduct,” state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, a Republican, told The Washington Post.
McClellan argues there are other laws about intentionally infecting someone with a disease, including those prohibiting “malicious wounding.” “There’s no reason to specifically single out people with HIV,” she said.
Cedric Pulliam, co-founder of Ending Criminalization of HIV and Overincarceration in Virginia, or ECHO VA, said the group will continue to work with advocates and legislators to change the law, “whether it’s this year or the next.”
“When you’re a felon, it messes up your career, your housing, your education — your entire mental state,” said Pulliam, a public health expert at the CDC. “We want to focus on the rehabilitative things we can do rather than punish people.”Last session ECHO VA didn’t back a less comprehensive version of the bill, because it “didn’t push the needle far enough,” co-founder Deidre Johnson told NBC News. She wasn’t sure McClellan’s bill, which included repeals of the donation ban and mandatory testing, would succeed. “We knew we wouldn’t get everything but we were shocked we got what we did,” she said.
Just last week, a bill banning the use of the so-called panic defense, used to mitigate violent crimes against LGBTQ people, passed with clear majorities in both houses.
“We’ve made generational change in less than two years,” McClellan said. “I think the public was there, I think there were even Republicans that were there. But the GOP leadership wouldn’t let [LGBTQ rights legislation] out of committee.”
The bill’s passage helps to cement Virginia as a leader on LGBTQ rights. On Tuesday, the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus reintroduced the REPEAL Act, which provides incentives to states that reform their HIV exposure laws.
Sponsored by Reps Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Jenniffer González Colón, R-Puerto Rico, the bill also directs the Health and Human Services and Justice departments to review policies that criminalize people living with HIV.
“We cannot achieve our shared goal of an AIDS-free generation while these laws are on the books,” Lee said in a statement. “It is past time that we repeal these harmful and discriminatory laws and instead focus our efforts on promoting public health equity and public awareness.”
President Joe Biden has indicated he supports the REPEAL Act on his policy site, saying HIV exposure laws have no basis in science and “perpetuate discrimination and stigma towards people with HIV/AIDS.”
Bills in at least 20 states are targeting the transgender community in what LGBTQ advocates say is an organized assault by conservative groups.
On Thursday, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban transgender student athletes from joining teams that match their gender identity. The measure, which passed 65 to 26, also calls for withholding state funds from sporting events that allow athletes to play as anything other than their sex assigned at birth. The bill now heads to the state Senate.
Supporters of the bill — including Republican state Rep. Ben Koppelman, its primary sponsor — say they want to protect opportunities for girls in sports, including access to athletic scholarships.
“Some have said this bill just doesn’t follow the science. We’ve got science going back well before the United States that backs this,” Koppelman said in a committee meeting, according to NBC affiliate KFYR-TV. “This isn’t new science. Men and women didn’t just cease to exist. They’ve existed for a long time and we’ve been able to recognize the differences.”
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, a Democrat, countered that the bill would “codify discrimination.”
“North Dakota transgender youth, you are seen and you are loved by many,” Boschee later tweeted. “This vote is infuriating and we will continue to work to have it defeated in the Senate.”
The same day the North Dakota House passed its bill, the Mississippi state Senate passed its own athletic ban, which now goes to the state House for consideration. Georgia, Kansas, Utah and Tennessee advanced similar legislation last week, as well.
In 2020, legislators sponsored 20 bills to restrict transgender students’ participation in sports, according to the ACLU. At least as many have been introduced this year.
Bills driven by ‘centralized groups’
To date, the only trans sports bill to become law is Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Barbara Ehardt. Signed by Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, last March, it mandates that “biological sex” be the sole determining factor for inclusion on athletic teams at public schools and universities.
Ehardt worked with the Alliance Defending Freedom in crafting the measure, The Idaho Press reported. Founded in 1994 by Christian conservatives, the Arizona-based group has provided legal counsel for a variety of efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights, from defending gay-marriage bans to ensuring the right of businesses to refuse LGBTQ customers. Perhaps most notably, the ADF defended Jack Phillips, the owner of a Colorado bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in his 2018 Supreme Court case over his refusal to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.
Kate Oakley, state legislative director and attorney for the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, told NBC News that a bill under review in Montana restricting transgender sports participation was also written by the ADF. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a designation the ADF dismisses as groundless and a smear tactic.
The language in the Idaho and Montana measures is strikingly similar — and interchangeable with wording in proposed sports bans in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona, Kansas and elsewhere.
All, for example, include an excerpt from an April 2019 Washington Post opinion piece by tennis legend Martina Navratilova, Olympic track star and NBC Sports analyst Sanya Richards-Ross and Duke law professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman. In it, the three state that “there will always be significant numbers of boys and men who would beat the best girls and women in head-to-head competition.”
The ADF did not confirm that it wrote the Idaho bill or provided template wording for legislation to any state, but Matt Sharp, an attorney for the organization, told NBC News in an email, “As is typical practice for legal organizations, Alliance Defending Freedom is often asked by legislators to review possible legislation and offer advice.”
In February 2016, Sharp claimed “lawmakers in at least five states” had used the ADF’s model legislation to draft so-called bathroom bills, The Washington Post reported. Sharp also said the Alliance mailed template bills to “thousands” of school districts.
“These bills are intended to look constituent-led, but we know it’s driven from these centralized groups,”said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lawyers for the ADF also filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuitagainst the Idaho bill on behalf of two female runners who lost to Juniper Eastwood, the first transgender runner to compete in NCAA Division 1 cross country. (While the case is being decided, the Idaho law is blocked from being enforced.)
And the ADF is representing three cisgender Connecticut women in a suit claiming they were forced to compete against “biological males” in high school track because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows transgender students to join the teams that match their gender identity.
The complaint alleges that two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, won 15 women’s state championship titles previously held by nine different girls and, from 2017 to 2019, “have taken more than 85 opportunities to participate in higher level competitions from female track athletes.”
“There are real physiological differences between boys and girls that affect athletic performance, such as size, muscle mass and bone density,” Sharp told NBC News. “We’ve seen the harms of allowing biological males to compete against women.”
A December study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found transgender women were faster and could do more pushups and situps for two years after starting testosterone blockers. But the study’s lead author, pediatrician Timothy Roberts, told NBC News previously that, “at the recreational level, probably one year is sufficient for most people to be able to compete.”
Another voice leading the fight against transgender athletes in sports is Beth Stelzer, a Minnesota-based amateur powerlifter and founder of Save Women’s Sports. According to its website, the group is a diverse coalition looking “to preserve biology-based eligibility standards for participation in female sports.”
On Thursday, Stelzer testified before Utah’s House Education Committee in favor of a transgender sports ban in that state. She’s also given testimony in support of similar bills in Minnesota, Montana and elsewhere.
Stelzer told NBC News she works more on gathering supporters to testify than on drafting legislation. “However, I do offer advice about the language used,” she said, adding that she was sad the issue had become “partisan.”
“Males participating in female sports is not about religion or politics. It is common sense,” Stelzer said. “We have women from the left, right and center coming together to preserve female sports across the world.”
Jennifer Wagner-Assali, an orthopedic surgeon and semiprofessional track cyclist, is an ambassador for Save Women’s Sports. She claims she unfairly lost the 2018 UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championship to transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon, now known as Veronica Ivy. Ivy took gold in the 200-meter sprint and briefly set a world record for women in the 35-39 age bracket, according to Bicycling magazine. Wagner-Assali took bronze.
“All these rules were put into place, basically by stealth,” she told host Julian Vigo this month on the Substack podcast Savage Minds. “Women were not asked their opinion. These things were changed a few years ago, and they’ve just kind of become part of the rule structure. Now they’re starting to be exploited, obviously.”
‘Uncontrolled human medical experimentation’
While athletic bans are the most common forms of legislation targeting transgender individuals this session, a number of states are also considering prohibiting transition-related medical care for minors, some including criminal penalties.
Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act would institute felony charges for health care professionals who performed procedures or prescribed medication “intended to alter the appearance of [a minor’s] gender or delay puberty, with certain exceptions.”
The bill calls puberty blockers and other transition-related treatments “dangerous and uncontrolled human medical experimentation.” It also requires teachers, principals, nurses and other school officials to tell parents if a child believes their gender is different from their sex assigned at birth.
A similar bill in Texas would redefine providing transition-related care to minors as a form of child abuse.
One of the first such bills was introduced last year by South Dakota state Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican. Originally, the bill would have made it a Class 4 felony to provide transition-related care to patients 16 or younger, even if they’re emancipated, but the felony charge was eventually amended to a misdemeanor. If it had passed, it would have also allowed those unhappy with their gender-affirming care to sue up until the age of 38, according to South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
In October 2019, three months before sponsoring the bill, Deutsch attended the Summit on Protecting Children From Sexualization in Washington, D.C. Panelists included representatives from the ADF, the Heritage Foundation, the Family Policy Alliance and the Kelsey Coalition, a group of parents who claim their children have been harmed by transgender health care practices. Attendees were given a gender resource guide for parents detailing how to oppose trans-affirming policies in their schools and communities, according to The Washington Post.
“In the fall of 2019, you have ADF, Heritage Foundation and these other groups start getting together and working up templates to ship out to state lawmakers,” Strangio told NBC News. “It was at the end of 2019 when we started to hear about them.”
Deutsch has also said he sent drafts of his bill to legislators in other states considering similar bans, The New York Times reported. But while a similar bill passed the South Dakota House of Representatives by a wide margin, it died in the state Senate.
Some lawmakers are opposing medical treatment for transgender youth with “conscience” bills, like a Kentucky bill that would let medical professionals in the state refuse to perform procedures that violated their religious or moral convictions.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Stephen Meredith, argues it will protect children from “misguided” parents who want to force them to change genders.
“You have a 12-year-old girl who’s a tomboy,” Meredith told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, according to The Lexington Herald-Leader. “And her parents, who are misguided, think that she’s really a girl trapped in a boy’s body. And they don’t want to see her go through the rest of her life miserable. So they’re going to go and transition her.”
“Does the surgeon have the right to say, ‘No, I’m not going to do this surgery’?” he asked, according to the Herald-Leader. “So this protects everybody.”
Meredith said the language in Kentucky’s bill was based on model legislation sent to him by the conservative Kentucky Family Foundation. The foundation’s executive director, Kent Ostrander, confirmed to NBC News that the group worked with Meredith on the bill in the last legislative session.“The bill is purely designed to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals as they practice their healing arts,” Ostrander said in an email.
Oakley, of the Human Rights Campaign, and other LGBTQ rights advocates say the failure to stop the legalization of same-sex marriage or pass so-called transgender bathroom bills has led groups like ADF to turn their focus toward trans youth. In a statement, HRC called the current raft of transgender-focused bills “simply the latest iteration of their failing fight.”
“Opponents of equality failed to claw back marriage equality and failed in their push for bathroom bills,” the group said. “These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they’re not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to sow fear and hate.”
Strangio said proponents of these measures are being disingenuous about protecting children and women.
“They claim children can’t consent to wanting to transition, but the bills all have the same carve-out for performing surgery on intersex infants,” he said. “It’s not about protecting, it’s about normative control.”
As for girls’ sports, Strangio said no state is anywhere near Title IX compliance, “but there’s crickets from supposed champions of women’s sports in the GOP.”
“No one is introducing legislation to increase funding to women’s sports or to ensure equal pay for female coaches,” he said. “Instead, they’re fighting hypothetical problems about 14-year-old trans girls.”