A National State of Emergency: Human Rights Campaign Sounds the Alarm over Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws in U.S.
Written by GRB on 07/06/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
The largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization in the United States has declared its first-ever state of emergency due to an unprecedented wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. The Human Rights Campaign says more than 525 anti-LGBTQ state bills have been introduced this year, in the 2023 legislative session; over 70 have become law.
In the latest move, on Tuesday, Louisiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature passed a ban on gender-affirming care for most minors, sending the bill to the Democratic governor, who’s opposed it, but a GOP supermajority in the Legislature could override his veto.
Most major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming healthcare for transgender minors and adults.
Also Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked Florida’s bans on gender transition care for three transgender children amidst ongoing legal challenges. Their families filed a lawsuit arguing the bans are unconstitutional, and the judge agreed they represent, quote, “purposeful discrimination against transgenders.”
Meanwhile, in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, police declared an unlawful assembly Tuesday night after more than 500 people protested outside a school board meeting where a vote was scheduled on recognizing June as Pride month. A physical fight broke out between anti-LGBTQ protesters and LGBTQ supporters, and the brawl was so big, it was picked up by a local news traffic cam.
This comes as 2024 Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley tried to connect teen girls’ suicidal ideation to transgender rights during a CNN town hall Sunday.
NIKKI HALEY: The idea that we have biological boys playing in girls’ sports, it is the women’s issue of our time. My daughter ran track in high school. I don’t even know how I would have that conversation with her. How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms? And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year?
AMY GOODMAN: A recent report by The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ young people, found roughly half of transgender and nonbinary young people said they had seriously considered suicide over the last year. And 30% said laws and policies that target LGBTQ people had worsened their mental health.
This is Nebraska state Senator Megan Hunt, whose son is transgender, responding to Republican Governor Jim Pillen after he signed a bill last month that bans gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth. Hunt had joined a months-long filibuster to block the measure.
SEN. MEGAN HUNT: This person said that they had attempted suicide during this session in Nebraska, a trans person. And I said to them, “Do not let one of these trash people who I work with be the reason that you’re not here. They don’t matter. The potential you have for the rest of your life is so much bigger than the damage any of these trash people can do in their little four-year or eight-year term.” … Senator Kauth has stood up and said that trans kids are suicidal and depressed because they’re trans. No, it’s because of bullies like her, who are trying to legislate their existence and take away their right to be viewed as fully human in our culture and society.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization in the United States.
This is the first time in the 40-year history of your group that you’ve decided to issue this emergency declaration. Talk about why you did this, Kelley Robinson.
KELLEY ROBINSON: Thank you.
You know, we felt like we had a responsibility to do so. I mean, you’ve laid it out. We’ve seen unprecedented attacks at the legislative level. We’re seeing real-life violence impacting our community, from California to the one in five of every hate crime being motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias.
And in this moment, when people are traveling across the country, when they’re deciding to move or what schools to go to, we had a responsibility to let people know that, one, there’s an imminent health and safety crisis facing our community, and, two, there’s a dizzying patchwork the protections for us and for our families depending on the state that you’re in. This report lays it out and also gives resources on what your rights are and what you can do if you find yourself in one of these hostile states.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what’s behind this wave of — and “wave” doesn’t really state it accurately. We’re talking about, as you’ve documented, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bills that have been put forward across the country.
KELLEY ROBINSON: This is political theater. They are doing this to pander to a MAGA Republican base in so many of these states. Look, the majority of the people support the LGBTQ+ community. Seventy percent of Americans support the LGBTQ+ community and believe that legislatures should be standing with our values. One in five of Generation Z identifies as a member of one of this community, 20 million American adults. This is not an issue of the margins.
What we’re seeing play out is a loud and vocal minority that is sowing hate and fear against our community because they’re not willing to solve the real problems. If they actually cared about the safety of our kids, they would be moving forward legislation to prevent gun violence, the number one killer of our children, not taking away the rights of parents to support our kids in growing into their fullest selves.
AMY GOODMAN: Over the weekend, U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker ruled a new Tennessee law restricting drag performances in public was unconstitutional. This is drag performer Cya Inhale at a Pride event in Franklin, Tennessee.
CYA INHALE: Having the answer finally delivered and that breath of fresh air and that weight off our shoulders that it’s finally gone, we don’t have to worry about it, is lovely. We can breathe easy for the rest of the year. There’s still a fight, and we still have to continue fighting. There are still other states that we are — drag is still being criminalized, that we still have to work on, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
AMY GOODMAN: And in related news, a federal judge blocked parts of a Florida law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Judge Robert Hinkle asserted, “Gender identity is real,” and he ruled in favor of three families with three transgender children who will be allowed to obtain prescription puberty blockers. So there is very bad news but also good news, and some of these rulings are by Trump-appointed judges.
KELLEY ROBINSON: Yes, that’s very true. I mean, that’s just showing the extent to which they are going, how unconstitutional the laws are that they’re passing in these states.
But the thing that I really want to pull forward is the impact is real. The fact that over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced, even if they don’t pass into law, it is having a devastating impact on the safety and well-being of our community. And when you match that with easy access to firearms, with an extreme rhetoric of hate, that’s when we’re getting these real-life outcomes of violence, from kids having increased incidence of mental health crises to real assaults at Drag Queen Story Hours or bomb threats on hospitals.
That’s why this is such a crisis right now, because it’s got the legislative impact, the human impact, and then it’s creating a culture of fear for our community, because we know they’re trying to push us back into the closet right now. And we are doing all that we can to show up in joyful resistance and resilience to make that not the case, not only for ourselves today but for every young person that’s watching this play out.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about doing this as presidential candidates are coming forward and taking very strong stands against the gay community in the Republican field, everyone from Governor DeSantis of Florida to the former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Can you talk about what you hope declaring this national state of emergency, how it will affect the presidential campaign?
KELLEY ROBINSON: You know, I have to say that what I see playing out in the Republican primary is devastating, it’s sickening, and it’s horrifying. They are pandering, again, to an extremist base and sowing fear against our kids, against our trans children, only for political gain. They know that this isn’t where the majority of the country is. They know that we’ve identified 62 million voters in the country that prioritize LGBTQ+ issues when deciding who to vote for. That’s, of course, LGBTQ+ people, but that’s also our allies, our friends, our family.
We can’t allow them to continue this line of attack. And even more so, we’ve got to bolster up our champions. We’ve got to make sure that everyone that is a supporter and ally of this community turns into a champion in 2024 to hold the strongest line possible. We can’t cede ground to these bullies, especially politically.
At the end of the day, we also have to recognize that this is an intersectional attack. The same people that are coming after gender-affirming care are also attacking our access to abortion. The same people that are trying to outlaw the ability to teach queer theories in schools are trying outlaw — excuse me, ban books and outlaw the ability to teach about Black history. They are launching an attack on all of our communities that is truly a crisis to our democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about what’s happening in the United States going global, Kelley. In May, the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, signed a sweeping anti-LGBTQ measure into law that makes same-sex relationship punishable by life in prison — even the death penalty in some cases. It’s one of the most draconian anti-LGBTQ laws in the world. In April, we spoke to the Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha about the role of U.S. evangelicals in pushing this law forward in Uganda.
FRANK MUGISHA: The homophobia and transphobia we are seeing towards queer and trans persons in Uganda is from the West. It is mostly peddled by extreme American evangelicals.
Just last week, we had American evangelicals in Uganda attending a conference that was titled “The Interparliamentary Conference on African Values.” But the agenda for this conference was anti-gay and anti-gender. In fact, some of the African members of parliament who attended this conference are trying to introduce similar legislation in other countries. For example, Kenya, a member of parliament who attended this conference in Uganda, that was heavily supported by American evangelicals, is now trying to introduce a similar legislation in Kenya. We are seeing this anti-gay propaganda and anti-gay legislations moving around Africa. Ghana already has one. We are worried about other countries, like Burundi, Tanzania, that could introduce similar legislations.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Frank Mugisha, the LGBTQ activist in Uganda. So many LGBTQ people are fleeing Uganda right now with the passage and signing of this law, Kelley Robinson. In that conversation, he particularly focused on the American evangelical Scott Lively, who talked about homosexuality as a Western agenda. Can you talk about how what’s happening in the United States is having such a massive effect globally?
KELLEY ROBINSON: I mean, it’s heartbreaking. It truly is. It is devastating to see how impactful that piece of legislation is in Uganda. And we know that it’s true, what he’s saying, that the same people that are pushing these anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the United States, they are exporting this hate. They are using places like Uganda and the full African region as a testing ground for what they hope to do in the United States of America. These are groups that are designated hate groups, like the Alliance to Defend Freedom. This is a true crisis.
You know, and it’s also heartbreaking because America used to be the beacon of hope. We used to be going to countries talking about what it means to expand rights to people. And now this is the legacy that we’re moving forward. All of us need to see this for exactly what it is: a precursor to what they also want to make true in the United States of America.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Kelley, if you can talk about what you feel people need to do in this time, as your organization has designated a national emergency?
KELLEY ROBINSON: I think that we need to recognize that, first, there are children looking to us to see what we are going to do and say in this moment, to see if we will stand up for their lives, if we will validate their humanity and their dignity. And all of us have a responsibility to do that vocally and proudly. We have to stand up and tell our stories in every way that we can about being a member of the community or being an ally to this community.
You have to take political action. Contact your legislators and tell them not to mess with our trans kids, not to mess with the LGBTQ+ community. And ultimately, we have to vote. We have to change the political dynamics in this country so that it is no longer advantageous to our opposition to attack the LGBTQ+ community. We can get on the other side of this issue, but we’ve got to do it together.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Kelley Robinson, I thank you so much for being with us, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. For the first time in its 40-year history, it has declared a national emergency for the LGBTQ+ community.
Coming up, Cornel West, the famed public intellectual, has just announced he is running for president to challenge both the Democratic and Republican parties. Stay with us.