Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has highlighted efforts by Republican governors and statehouses across the country to embrace proposals limiting the rights of transgender people, signing new restrictions as he moves closer to a presidential bid.
The restrictions are spreading quickly despite criticism from medical groups and advocates who say they’re further marginalizing transgender youth and threatening their health.
Here’s what’s happening:
DeSantis on Wednesday signed bills that ban gender affirming care for minors, restrict pronoun use in schools and force people to use the bathroom corresponding with their sex assigned at birth in some cases.
DeSantis also signed new restrictions on drag shows that would allow the state to revoke the food and beverage licenses of businesses that admit children to adult performances. The DeSantis administration has moved to pull the liquor licenses of businesses that held drag shows, alleging children were present during lewd displays.
The rules on gender affirming care also ban the use of state money for the care and place new restrictions on adults seeking treatment. They take effect immediately, along with the drag show restrictions. The bathroom and pronoun restrictions take effect July 1.
DeSantis has been an outspoken advocate for such restrictions, and championed a Florida law that restricts the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. Florida has expanded that prohibition, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, to all grades.
WHERE BANS STAND NATIONALLY
Hundreds of bills have been proposed this year restricting the rights of transgender people, and LGBTQ+ advocates say they’ve seen a record number of such measures in statehouses.
At least 17 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and several other states are considering bills this year to restrict or ban care. Proposed bans are also pending before Texas and Missouri’s governors.
These bans have spread quickly, with only three states enacting such laws before this year.
Before DeSantis signed the latest ban, Florida was one of two states that had restricted the care via regulations or administrative action. Texas’s governor has ordered child welfare officials to investigate reports of children receiving such care as child abuse, though a judge has blocked those investigations.
Three transgender youth and their parents who are suing to block Florida’s earlier ban on the care for minors expanded their challenge on Wednesday to include the prohibition DeSantis signed into law.
Every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association, has opposed the bans and supported the medical care for youth when administered appropriately. Lawsuits have been filed in several of the states where the bans have been enacted this year.
STATES POISED TO ACT
A proposed ban on gender affirming care for minors is awaiting action before Republican Gov. Mike Parson in Missouri. The state’s Republican attorney general, Andrew Bailey, this week withdrew a rule he had proposed that would have gone further by also restricting access to the care for adults.
Bailey cited the bill pending before Parson as a reason for eliminating the rule, which had been blocked by a state judge.
Nebraska Republicans on Tuesday folded a 12-week abortion ban into a bill that would ban gender affirming care for minors, potentially clearing the way for a final vote on the combined measure as early as this week.
Not all states are adopting restrictions, and some Democrat-led states are enacting measures aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ youth.
Michigan Democrats plan to introduce legislation Thursday that would ban conversion therapy for minors, a discredited practice of trying to “convert” people to heterosexuality.
The legislation is expected to move quickly with Democrats in control of all levels of state government. Democratic state Rep. Jason Hoskins, a sponsor of the bill, told The Associated Press that he hopes the legislation passes by the end of June, which is Pride Month.
Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Margery Beck in Lincoln, Nebraska; Margaret Stafford in Kansas City, Missouri; and Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.