Respect Equality

Civil rights, education groups say ‘an attack on transgender youth is an attack on civil rights’

150 groups signed a letter responding to a tidal wave of recent legislation targeting the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender youth.

Story at a glance

  • Civil and human rights organizations denounced “mean-spirited” and “discriminatory” legislation targeting LGBTQ+ young people in an open letter to lawmakers published Wednesday.

  • In just the first six months of the year, hundreds of bills have been introduced that seek to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ people across the country.

  • Most of these measures, the signatories argued, are illegal and violate protections guaranteed under the Constitution and Title IX.

In an open letter published Wednesday, 150 civil and human rights organizations denounced “mean-spirited” and “discriminatory” legislation targeting LGBTQ+ young people — particularly transgender youth — cropping up in state legislatures nationwide.

“These laws aim to shut transgender youth out of school activities such as sports, to ban them from school facilities such as restrooms, to prohibit discussion of their very existence in classrooms, and to punish educators and families who help young people access necessary gender-affirming care,” groups including the National LGBTQ Task Force, The Trevor Project and the American Psychological Association wrote Wednesday.

In just the first six months of the year, hundreds of bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans have been introduced in nearly every state, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which also signed Wednesday’s letter.

Several of those measures have already become law, including at least two bans on gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. One of them, in Alabama, makes it a felony, punishable by up to a decade in prison, for doctors to provide or recommend gender-affirming care to youth younger than 18 years old. (The enforcement of that law was partially blocked by a federal judge earlier this year).

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In Texas, whose legislature is not in session this year, officials including the governor and attorney general have said they believe some forms of gender-affirming care, like puberty blockers and hormone therapy, amount to “child abuse” under their interpretation of state law.

Other laws passed this year have targeted transgender athletes, particularly transgender women and girls. At least 10 states this year have enacted laws that bar transgender students from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity, citing ambitions to level the playing field and protect the integrity of women’s sports.

In Florida, the Parental Rights in Education law — known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — is set to take effect July 1. Under the measure, public school educators will be barred from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity, which LGBTQ+ rights groups have challenged as unconstitutional. A similar law was passed in Alabama in April.

On Wednesday, civil rights groups called on state and national leadership to reject recent efforts to check LGBTQ+ rights and commit themselves to “meaningfully advancing” pro-equality policies.

“As organizations that care deeply about ending sex-based discrimination and ensuring equal educational opportunities, we support laws and policies that protect transgender people from discrimination, including participation in sports, access to gender-affirming care, access to school facilities, and access to inclusive curriculum,” they wrote in the letter, which was circulated by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a national civil and human rights coalition.

“We firmly believe that an attack on transgender youth is an attack on civil rights.”

The letter signatories also argued that most recent legislation targeting LGBTQ+ people violates protections guaranteed under both the U.S. Constitution and Title IX, which could put states’ federal education funding in jeopardy.

They also discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the letter said — both protected classes under the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County.

“We support the full inclusion, protection, and celebration of transgender youth, including access to school facilities and extracurricular activities such as athletics, gender-affirming care, and inclusive curriculum, because all young people deserve safe, healthy, and inclusive environments,” the groups wrote Wednesday. “Transgender and non-binary youth deserve the chance to succeed and thrive like any other child.”

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