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This year, state legislatures across the country have introduced more than 100 bills to restrict trans rights. Last Tuesday, the first day of Pride Month, Florida became the eighth state targeting trans athletes. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano spoke with Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice for the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, about this record setting year in state legislation aimed at the transgender community.
2021 is already a record year for states aiming to restrict transgender rights. The latest was last week's ban in Florida on transgender athletes playing on female school sports teams.
NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice for the ACLU LGBT & HIV project, about this record setting year in state legislation aimed at the transgender community.
Chase, please describe Florida's so-called "Fairness in Women's Sports Act", and explain why it has sparked so much outrage among civil rights advocates.
Yeah, so, of course, on the first day of Pride, Republican Governor DeSantis signs this anti trans bill. What it is, is a ban on trans women and girls participating in women's and girls sports. Unfortunately, it is similar to seven under seven other bills that have been signed into law just in 2021. And analogous to Idaho's ban on trans women and girls participating in sports that was signed into law in 2020. So we're now seeing this widespread movement to ban women and girls who are trans from women's sports.
I think what happened in Florida, which is not totally anomalous in terms of what's going on elsewhere, is that you have this bill which is falsely pitched as defending or protecting women. What it does is ban a subset of women and girls from sports, trans women and girls. And in the process, it allows the state to police the bodies of all women and girl athletes. It turns over this policing authority because essentially what it's saying is that some women and girls aren't legitimately women and girls and the state and others are empowered to challenge people's sex.
Chase, as you know, more than 250 bills aimed at the LGBTQ community have been introduced in state legislatures this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Why 2021, and how does Florida's new law fit into that picture?
I mean I think there's a lot of reasons that we're seeing this escalation of attacks on the LGBTQ community and particularly on the trans community. It's part of a continued backlash from marriage equality. So when the Supreme Court struck down bans on marriage for same sex couples in 2015, you immediately saw a backlash in the form of legislative attacks on trans people and trans youth in particular. There was a little bit of a lull in state legislatures during the four years of the Trump administration, where I think you saw less urgency from far right state governments because they knew that they had the federal government on their side to be the main discriminator against LGBTQ people. Then what we see in 2020 is sort of this perfect storm where you have the election of Joe Biden and the backlash to that. You also have in June of 2020, the Supreme Court issuing a landmark opinion making clear that LGBTQ people are covered under existing civil rights statutes. So that's another area where you have this incredibly important Supreme Court decision, much like the marriage equality decision that also leads to backlash
We've heard more about legislation aimed at blocking transgender youth from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity, or aimed at blocking them from receiving gender-affirming medical care. But what other bills and laws are on your radar?
There were in Montana a bill that banned upgrades to birth certificates to align with people's gender that was passed and signed into law by Governor Gianforte. Tennessee passed a series of anti trans bills, one of which would require businesses that allow people to use the restroom to post signage, to signal to customers that trans people might be using a restroom, as well as other restrictions on trans people accessing restrooms consistent with their gender identity in schools. And then we also saw a lot of bills that would expand the ability of individuals and businesses to to turn people away from services, including medical services, if they had any moral or religious objection. Arkansas, for example, passed an incredibly broad medical conscience bill that was very much designed to target trans people that would allow medical providers to turn away a trans and just based on any simple rejection of transness. And so that's not just related to gender affirming care that would be turning people away for any reason.
Obviously this is the beginning of Pride month. And we're seeing a lot of companies and corporations celebrating Pride and including Pride flags in their marketing campaigns. And some corporations have even issued statements opposing anti-LGBTQ state legislation. Is that enough in your opinion?
No, it's not enough, I mean, I think it's incredibly difficult to stomach the prime merchandising this year because what we know is that corporations have an incredible amount of power when it comes to pushing back against state legislation. I think, by and large, we had corporations being incredibly recalcitrant. And though in the past, we've seen some corporate engagement around defending LGBTQ people from these types of state legislative attacks when it came to the types of truly terrifying attacks on trans youth that we saw this year, there was almost no action from the corporate sector. And what we did see was incredibly minimal engagement. So to sign on to just a general letter, instead of having companies engage, particularly where you had companies either headquartered in or in certain states or doing a lot of business in certain states, we did not see the level of engagement needed. And so when it comes time for Pride month, I think we all have to be particularly discerning because it's very clear that companies are willing to leverage our likeness, leverage our magic, but then not show up when it comes time to making sure that states don't take away our material opportunities for survival. And that's really what we're contending with right now.
Chase Strangio, Director of Transgender Justice at the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
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Ivette Feliciano shoots, produces and reports on camera for PBS NewsHour Weekend. Before starting with NewsHour in 2013, she worked as a one-person-band correspondent for the News 12 Networks, where she won a New York Press Club Award for her coverage of Super Storm Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast in 2012. Prior to that, Ivette was the Associate Producer of Latin American news for Worldfocus, a nationally televised, daily international news show seen on Public Television. While at Worldfocus, Ivette served as the show’s Field Producer and Reporter for Latin America, covering special reports on the Mexican drug war as well as a 5-part series out of Bolivia, which included an interview with President Evo Morales. In 2010, she co-produced a documentary series on New York’s baseball history that aired on Channel Thirteen. Ivette holds a Master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in broadcast journalism.
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