Editorial: Anti-LGBTQ actions unlikely to lessen in 2024

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday December 27, 2023
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LGBTQ rights will be on the California ballot in 2024, and people should register to vote. Photo: Rick Gerharter
LGBTQ rights will be on the California ballot in 2024, and people should register to vote. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Our colleague Gwen Smith notes in her Transmissions column this week that according to the Trans Legislation Tracker, there were 589 anti-trans bills introduced in 49 states in 2023. In California, of course, an anti-trans bill didn't even make it out of committee, as we reported earlier this year. Nonetheless, it's sobering to realize that every state except Delaware had lawmakers who thought it would be a good idea to vilify trans people, whether it be by passing education-related, health care, or other types of laws aimed at restricting rights. Many of these laws were signed by governors, particularly in conservative states, and now many parents of trans youth are wondering if they can remain in those areas. Others have already concluded they cannot and have moved. (California adopted a law last year recognizing the Golden State as a refuge for trans kids and their families.)

Unfortunately, targeting trans and nonbinary people through the legislative process is unlikely to lessen as we head into 2024. There is the presidential election, of course, and many Republicans have apparently determined that an effective way to gain support with their base is to go after trans people. (They seem to look past the fact that this position is not winning them support where it counts, at the ballot box. In Ohio earlier this year, voters did not fall for the false claims that a ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution would allow minors to receive gender-affirming care and decisively passed it in a red state.) Former President Donald Trump has stated he will implement anti-trans policies if he is elected. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, both struggling to compete with Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, regularly try to "out-anti-trans" each other on the campaign trail. The other GOP candidates, with the possible exception of long-shot Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, are just as bad, but they have little chance of advancing out of next year's primaries.

Erin Reed, who runs her own online trans news site Erin in the Morning, recently reported that already, state lawmakers in Missouri have indicated they plan to file as many as 21 anti-LGBTQ bills in the 2024 session, with a lot of them focused on trans people. "These bills aim to ban bathroom access, books, medical care, public drag performances, classroom topics, and more," Reed reported.

Closer to home, Golden State voters may have to contend with a massive anti-trans ballot measure in 2024. It would forcibly out trans students to their parents without their consent; ban gender-affirming care for minors; prevent trans women and girls from participating in women's sports; and repeal a state law allowing trans students to use bathrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. In spite of California being a deep blue state and having Democrats in every statewide office and in control of the Legislature, this ballot initiative, which has been cleared for signature gathering, could upend much of the progress made for trans and nonbinary people.

We already know that a ballot measure to repeal the "zombie" language of Proposition 8 will be on the November ballot. And we cannot get complacent and presume it will pass because more people support marriage equality than they did 15 years ago. This is one of those initiatives that may be overlooked by others, but it's necessary that we get that anti-same-sex marriage language out of the state constitution.

What to do? Well, as Smith notes in her column, and as we've mentioned previously, the greater LGBTQ community needs to stand in solid support with the trans community, as do our straight allies. Republicans and social conservatives would have you believe that the country is facing a takeover by trans people (not that there's anything wrong with that). But the facts just don't bear that out. Last year, the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank at UCLA School of Law, used information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System, and advanced statistical modeling to determine the number of trans adults and youth in every state. In aforementioned Missouri, for example, trans youth represent 0.75% of state residents, and number about 2,900. That's a sliver of the number of young people in the Show Me State. Nationally, about 1.6 million people aged 13 and over identify as transgender. This is in a country of more than 339 million people. It's insane that conservatives are obsessed with such a small number of people.

Since they are, however, it's incumbent on us in California to fight back, especially at the ballot box next year. In addition to the presidential race, there will be many items on the ballots for both the March primary and November general elections. We need to buck what's happening in Southern California by electing pro-equality school board members. We need to make sure that city councils and boards of supervisors are made up of LGBTQ members or strong allies. There is no room for intolerance and no place for animus against the queer community.

If you are not yet registered to vote, do it today (the last day to register for the March 5 primary is February 20). It's easy and there's nothing more important as we head into 2024 than to make sure your vote is counted.

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