Pride Month Legislation: Anti-Transgender Bills, Fulton V. Philadelphia, and the Equality Act
On June 28, 2021, New York City celebrated its annual Pride Parade. The procession, themed “The Fight Continues,” marked an end to Pride Month for LGBTQIA+ communities across the country, and commemorated Pride Day; an anniversary enacted to honor the riots against the police onslaught of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village.
Since the Stonewall Riots, those who partook in this past Pride Month have had much to celebrate as the acceptance of queer identities has continued to increase. In the United States, 72% of Americans now answer that homosexuality should be accepted, an increase of over 30% since the 1969 milestone. Further, from a survey of 10 swing states, 60% of Trump voters believe that transgender people should be able to live “freely and openly.”
Progressive advancements have also been made in congress and the courts. In 2018, the “Rainbow Wave” of politics gave way to more than 150 LGBTQ+ politicians elected into office, and, in 2015, Obergefell V. Hodges marked the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide.
However, amid the festivities throughout the month of June, queer-targeted legislation has become an evident point-of-interest for public officials.
In a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Catholic Social Services (CSS) in the case of Fulton V. Philadelphia on June 17. In 2018, the city of Philadelphia Department of Human Services began an investigation into its care provider agents for potential violations of the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The investigation found that the CSS—a private agency that receives taxpayer-funding to provide government services such as foster care providers, food banks, homeless shelters—would not, based on their religious objection, accept same-sex couples as foster parents. The city informed the CSS that it would no longer refer children to them unless they agreed to comply with the non-discrimination requirments in their foster care contract, prompting the agency to sue the City of Philadelphia with claims of first amendment right violations.
The Supreme Court ruled to reverse the original decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the City of Philadelphia violated the Catholic Social Service’s (CSS) right to free exercise by excluding the agency from their foster care program. Chief Justice Roberts delivered the majority opinion of the court, to which the remaining Justices either joined, or concurred in a separate statement.
Further, the anti-transgender bills introduced in the state legislative session during the month of June marked the highest number of anti-transgender bills in history. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 117 bills have been introduced in the current legislative session that target the transgender community, including bans on participation in same-gender youth sports, bans on gender-affirming healthcare for minors, and further bathroom restrictions.
Data from the Human Rights Campaign
On the first day of Pride Month, Governor of Florida Rick DeSantis signed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which bans trans-women and girls from participating in women’s and girls sports. Similar bills that ban transgender athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities have been introduced in thirty-one other states, and seven states—Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Montana, and West Virginia—have enacted them into law.
Bans on gender-affirming healthcare have also been a part of the discussion. 20 states have introduced bills that prohibit or impede the administration of gender-affirming therapy to minors, and HB1570, which has been titled “The Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act (SAFE),” is the first bill in the United States to become law that prohibits healthcare professionals from administering gender-affirming care. The bill is set to go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns.
A series of anti-transgender bathroom bills have also been passed that would require businesses that allow people to use the restroom to post signage to inform customers that trans-people may be using the bathroom, as well as add other restrictions on access to restrooms in schools.
So far, 17 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been enacted into law. This includes:
7 Anti-transgender sports bans in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Montana, and West Virginia
4 Religious refusal bills, including in Arkansas, Montana, and South Dakota
2 Anti-LGBTQ+ education bills in Tennessee and Montana
1 Anti-transgender medical care ban bill in Arkansas
1 “Hate Crime” bill in Arkansas
1 Anti-all comers bill in North Dakota
1 Anti-trans birth certificate bill in Montana
Moreover, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures. This includes:
At least 35 bills that would prohibit transgender youth from being able to access best-practice, age-appropriate, gender-affirming medical care
At least 69 bills that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity
At least 43 bills that would allow people to assert a religious belief as justification for failing to abide by the law or provide services to people of whom they disapprove
At least 15 bills that would prohibit transgender people from having access to restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity
In addition, Pride Month has concluded without an Equality Act vote in the Senate. In February, the House passed the Equality Act, and though Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) hinted the bill could get a Senate vote in June, the deadline has sailed amid Republican opposition.
The act would provide “consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service,” and would amend existing civil rights law to “prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex.”
Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote that LGBTQ+ people have lived on a “patchwork of protections,” and that the Equality Act is “fair, just, and the right legislation to move our democracy forward.”
Though Pride Month has come to an end, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation continues to press forward. Questions remain as to which legislation will be acted upon before the August recess, but—in line with the theme of NYC Pride—the fight continues for activists and legislators alike.