With the legal landscape for LGBTQ+ individuals rapidly shifting across the country, partner and chair of LGBTQ @ Venable, Colin Vandell, hosted a discussion to assess some of the welcome, and not so welcome, developments. The panelists, Christy Mallory, Luis Vasquez, and Cathren Cohen from the Williams Institute, where Mr. Vandell also serves as legal counsel, explored some of the state-level attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, particularly those targeted at transgender children; some of the more positive developments at the state and federal levels; and the potential impact of the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Whether as a result of a backlash to marriage equality or to nondiscrimination protections that have begun to spread, the panelists noted that this year has been a record year for state-level anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, with about 330 bills being introduced during the 2022 legislative session. Most of these bills are focused on the transgender population and particularly on limiting the ability of trans children to be themselves in different spheres of their lives.
A number of states have introduced bills that prohibit children—all the way down to grade school—from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. Many of these bills are focused exclusively on preventing trans girls from participating in school sports designated for girls. In the near future, we are also likely to see more legislation similar to the recently introduced "Don't Say Gay" bill in Florida, which restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
Other attacks that are gaining traction at the state level are bills that limit the provision of gender affirming care that would allow young people to live in their true identity. These bills include banning medication, like puberty blockers that can be taken as a trans individual develops and matures, as well as transition care following hormone intake or surgery. While the majority of these laws are not passing, they take time and resources to deal with and prevent organizations from directing their efforts toward policies that support LGBTQ+ rights. These bills are also having severe impacts on the lives of trans children in states where such legislation is introduced.
The situation is more promising at the federal level, with the Biden administration being the most supportive of LGBTQ+ rights in history. This month, the president issued an executive order that includes actions to counteract the state-level attacks by protecting children from conversion therapy, safeguarding programs to prevent youth suicide, and other measures that support LGBTQ+ youth and their families. The sweeping order also looks at some of the disparities that exist in foster care, the homeless youth population, and juvenile detention to help ensure that the government is responding to a whole range of issues that have a particular impact on LGBTQ+ individuals.
The order also includes language asking the Department of Health and Human Services to devote attention to older adults and empower other government agencies to help ensure that the needs of LGBTQ+ subpopulations are being properly served. There are also a number of bills percolating in Congress, such as the LGBTQI Inclusion Act, which would seek to create a congressional mandate to make sure that these agencies are doing sufficient research to assess how to include the LGBTQ+ community in government surveys and other data collections and ensure that there is adequate funding to carry out this work.
Lastly, by overturning Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed women the constitutional right to abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the LGBTQ+ community by paving the way for challenges to recently secured LGBTQ+ rights. A number of key opinions that have furthered protections for this community featured citations to Roe and the ability it enshrined for individuals to make personal decisions for themselves and within their families and intimate relationships. Now that Roe has been struck down, the door has been flung open for potential challenges to marriage equality and other rights that this community has fought so hard for in the past several decades.
This program is part of Venable's 2022 DEI Speaker Series. To learn more about Venable's diversity initiatives, please click here. For more information about LGBTQ @ Venable programming and events, please visit our resource page here.
The Williams Institute
A UCLA think tank, the Williams Institute, is the leading research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. The Institute works to ensure that facts—not stereotypes—inform laws, policies, and judicial decisions that affect the LGBTQ + community and is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. By disseminating its research to policymakers, judges, the media, and other stakeholders, the Institute works to ensure that decisions impacting the lives of millions of LGBTQ + people and families are based on data and facts.