It's already a record year for anti-2SLGBTQ bills in the U.S. Here are some of the rights rolling back
Advocates tracking a range of legislation targeting gender-affirming care, bathroom use and more
There's been a bombardment of bills put forward in U.S. state legislatures this year affecting the rights of two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people — and there are few signs of the onslaught easing up.
Groups tracking such legislation have documented hundreds of bills affecting 2SLGBTQ people: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lists at least 474 bills on its tracking website, while the Trans Legislation Tracker has a tally of 541.
There are a range of restrictions affecting gender-affirming care for minors — even for adults in some cases — bathroom use, identification, drag performances and education. Dozens of these bills have already passed and been signed into law, though court challenges have prevented some from going into effect.
May 17 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which is meant to honour the strength and resilience of 2SLGBTQ communities and the ongoing pursuit of equal rights worldwide.
But many U.S. legislatures are rolling back what advocates say is years of progress.
Here are some of the strictest and most controversial laws enacted across the U.S. so far this year.
WATCH | States offering refuge from anti-transgender legislation:
Restricting gender-affirming care
Utah was the first state in 2023 to put a law on the books banning puberty-blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for transgender people under the age of 18. A total of 16 states have banned gender-affirming care for minors at this point.
Legislation hasn't just increased in number; in several states, some have increased in severity.
In Alabama, Arkansas and Idaho, physicians and other gender-affirming care providers could be convicted of a felony for offering care to a minor, even though it's considered rare.
The week before officially announcing his run for U.S. president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a slate of anti-LGBTQ bills into law, including a ban on providing gender-affirming care to youth that could see providers face criminal charges. The law also allows the state to temporarily take custody away from a parent "in certain child custody enforcement proceedings" if a child "has been subjected to or is threatened with being subjected to sex reassignment prescriptions or procedures," the legislation reads.
The new law also requires "informed consent" for adults on what the state calls "irreversible nature and dangers" of gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgeries.
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Texas is set to become the largest state to ban gender-affirming care for minors, once the governor signs legislation passed on May 17. The state had already conducted "child abuse" investigations into parents believed to be seeking gender-affirming care for their children last year, at the behest of the state's attorney general, until a court injunction halted such investigations last September.
Efforts to put restrictions on gender-affirming care are not limited to care provided to minors. Missouri lawmakers considered extending the age limit for gender-affirming care to anyone under 25. They have already passed legislation that would prevent such care being covered by Medicaid in the state.
Banning bathroom access
The everyday rights of transgender and gender-diverse people are coming under threat as well, with laws that limit access to bathrooms.
On May 17, Florida's DeSantis signed a bill that could see people charged with a misdemeanor if they use a restroom or changing room — be it in a school, a health-care facility, public shelter or private business — that doesn't correspond to their assigned sex at birth.
Kansas enacted a similarly sweeping bathroom bill earlier this year that is set to go into effect this summer.
A number of states have enacted measures against recognizing someone's preferred pronouns. Preferred pronouns represent the gender a person identifies with, something that is seen as an important sign of respect and affirmation for transgender and gender diverse people — especially young people.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill on May 8, which went into effect immediately, allowing teachers to ignore the preferred pronouns of transgender and gender-diverse students. State government employees are also permitted to reject their co-workers' preferred pronouns.
Risks to representation
Some states, like Missouri, have attempted to enact restrictions on school and public libraries over books related to gender identity and sexual orientation, but Oklahoma's governor went after the statewide public broadcaster.
Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed funding last month for the Oklahoma Education Television Authority — the most-watched PBS station in the country, according to CNN — until 2026 over 2SLGBTQ-inclusive programming he claimed was contributing to the "indoctrination and over-sexualization of children."
The station could go dark later this year unless the legislature overrides his decision.
Drag performances have also come under threat, especially in Tennessee. It was the first state in the country to enact a measure aimed at "male of female impersonators," which has been widely interpreted as being directed at drag performers.
The law would forbid drag performances, lumped under the term "adult-oriented performances," where they could be viewed by minors. Any bar or facility hosting such performances could not be within 300 metres of a child care facility, a private, public or charter school, a public park, family recreation centre, a residence or a place of worship.
A first violation would be a misdemeanor that could result in a fine up to $2,500 US and possible jail time up to 11 months; a subsequent offence would qualify as a felony, which could be punishable with a fine of up to $3,000 and up to six years in prison.
A federal judge temporarily blocked the state's law criminalizing drag performances, in some circumstances, hours before it went into effect on April 1. The injunction was extended until May 26.
Florida now has its own vaguely worded law that has implications for drag performances. The legislation prohibits "exposing children to an adult live performance," which includes performances that feature "lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts." Though House Bill 1438 does not specifically refer to drag performances, it only referenced events such as a drag brunch and a holiday touring performance called "A Drag Queen Christmas" as examples.
But Montana has made it crystal clear, specifically banning drag story hour events at any school or library that receives public funding — the first state to do so — along with prohibiting what the state considers "sexually oriented" or obscene performances on any public property "in a location where the performance is in the presence of an individual under the age of 18."
With files from The Associated Press