By ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga and ACLU national Staff Attorney Chase Strangio
Legislators across the country seem to be competing for who can win the title of most anti-LGBT.
Bills are being introduced in state legislatures from Washington State to Virginia (and everywhere in-between) aimed at dehumanizing and discriminating against LGBT people.
In Virginia, for example, we are witnessing the most anti-LGBT legislative session in the state’s history.
So far, 9 anti-gay and anti-trans bills have been introduced. Some of the bills reveal a fixation with determining the “anatomical sex” of students to ensure that trans students are expelled from communal bathrooms. One goes so far as to impose a $50 civil penalty on any student who uses the “wrong” bathroom. Others seek to prevent trans people from updating their Virginia birth records to match their gender and limit non-discrimination protections based on sex to people whose gender matches the gender assigned to them at birth.
Another bill that the Virginia legislature will be considering next week would allow individuals and corporations to discriminate based on a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is only between one man and one woman or that the terms ‘man’ and woman’ only refer to “an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics of the individual at the time of birth.”
This last bill would mean that government contractors could discriminate against gay and transgender people, even turning away vulnerable people needing important social services, and the government would be powerless to stop it. Licensed professionals could discriminate against LGBT youth, and there would be no recourse through state licensing boards. And government-funded businesses or organizations could turn away or harass transgender people simply for existing. What the sponsor is calling the “Government Nondiscrimination Act” is much more aptly named the “Government Discrimination Act.” Every day Virginia legislators are finding new ways to target the LGBT community.
And as bad as things are in Virginia, Virginia is not alone. Across the country legislators will be considering bills that would authorize countless forms of discrimination against the LGBT community. These efforts have real consequences for real people.
As one mother of a transgender girl explained to the NY Daily News: “We g[et] hate calls and threats…Grandfathers saying they would stand outside the bathroom and teach her to be a man. The principal told me…she could (not) protect my child. It got so bad we had to move.”
No matter the distorted rhetoric these legislators hide behind, the message to the LGBT community is clear: you are less than, you are undeserving of protections and dignity, you are not wanted here. That is a harmful and painful message for anyone to hear and it should mobilize us to do better for our families, friends and the many young people who are hearing these messages and wondering what their future holds.
One thing is clear: there is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done to protect the rights and dignity of all LGBT people.
Join us in stopping these anti-gay and anti-trans efforts. Tell your LGBT friends, family members and colleagues that you won’t stand for a climate that targets them.
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