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2021 becomes worst year for anti-LGBT+ legislation in US history. We’re not even half-way through

Maggie Baska May 11, 2021
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Trans Rights Activists lgbt

Trans Rights Activists holding a banner during the march for the 13th Annual Trans Day of Action. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

More anti-LGBT+ legislation has been enacted in the US this year than any other year in history, marking a sad milestone for LGBT+ Americans.

With the enactment of two anti-LGBT+ laws over the weekend, Montana officially broke the record for the most anti-LGBT+ legislation enacted in a calendar year in the US.

So far this year, 17 anti-LGBT+ bills have passed into law, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The previous record, 15, was set in 2015.

HRC also warned that an additional 11 anti-LGBT+ bills are sitting on governors’ desks waiting to be signed into law or vetoed while dozens more are moving through state legislatures across the country.

Alphonso David, HRC’s president, said the rights of LGBT+ people – especially trans individuals – across the US are being “systematically threatened and undermined by national anti-LGBTQ groups” who are “coordinating with anti-equality lawmakers to wage an unprecedented war” on the LGBT+ community.

Of the 17 bills passed this year, a majority are laws prohibiting trans athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports. In 2021, seven anti-trans sports bills passed into law in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Montana and West Virginia.

There were four religious refusal bills that passed into law in Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota. Such bills allow individuals and businesses to openly discriminate against LGBT+ individuals under the guise of religious freedom. Tennessee and Montana each passed an anti-LGBT+ education bill, and Arkansas passed a cruel law that bans gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth.

State legislatures have enacted more anti-LGBT+ laws in 2021 than in the last three years combined. Only two anti-LGBT+ bills were signed into law in 2018, seven in 2019 and four in 2020 – a total of 13 bills over three years.

David added some of the bills which have been introduced in state legislatures in 2021 are “similar to or even worse” than anti-LGBT+ legislation that was “rejected in previous years”. David said the slew of anti-LGBT+ legislation sweeping the US proved this “crisis cannot be ignored” and “necessitates concrete action from all those with the ability to speak out”.

“These bills are not only harmful and discriminatory but also represent a failure in our democracy and the commitment elected officials make to protect and serve their constituents,” David said. “Now is not the time for reluctance or passivity, it is time to take urgent action to protect the basic rights and humanity of LGBTQ people in America.”

HRC said more than 250 anti-LGBT+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2021, with many unfairly targeting the trans community.

At least 69 bills would prohibit trans youth from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. A further 35 bills would prohibit trans youth from being able to access gender-affirming medical care. At least 15 bills would prohibit trans people from having access to restrooms, locker rooms or other public facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Related topics: anti-LGBT laws, transgender athletes, transgender healthcare

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