OKLAHOMA CITY– Today, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization – condemned the state Senate’s passage from Oklahoma’s SB 2, a bill that would ban transgender students from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity, SB 9, a bill that would expand the definition of obscene material to target the LGBTQ+ community, and SB 1100, a bill that would eliminate inclusive gender markers from official documents. SB 2, which passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives last year, will now head for Governor Stitt’s desk — one step away from becoming law. SB 9 and SB 1100 will return to Oklahoma House for examination.
Just last night, Oklahoma House passed similar legislation, HB 4245, which effectively excludes all transgender girls from participating in school athletics, increasing their isolation and depriving them of social, physical and emotions of sports. It does so despite the fact that decades of experience across the country show that banning transgender youth from participating in school sports programs solves nothing and in fact causes a lot of harm.
Already this week, two Republican governors in Indiana and Utah vetoed legislation similar to SB 2 in their states, citing a lack of evidence, compassion for the isolation of transgender youth and concerns about the high likelihood of litigation challenging these discriminatory laws. These bills passed by the Oklahoma Senate would also be contrary to the opinion of a majority of Oklahomans, as new polls of PRRI shows that 75% of Oklahomans support expanding LGBTQ+ rights, including protections against discrimination.
“In the past 24 hours, Oklahoma lawmakers have decided to launch a full-scale attack on LGBTQ+ rights, and in particular for transgender people. Their repeated attempts to deny opportunity to transgender children and to ostracize members of the LGBTQ+ community are disgusting. In addition to denying transgender children the social benefits that come with school sports, they also work hard to ban inclusive gender markers and define LGBTQ+ content as obscene. They are simply attacking the LGBTQ+ community to score political points with extreme elements within their party. ” noted State Legislative Director and Senior Human Rights Campaign Advocate Cathryn Oakley. “The Human Rights Campaign urges Governor Stitt and the Oklahoma House of Representatives to put the best interests of children and marginalized individuals ahead of cheap political gimmicks, and to realize the damage that can be done if these projects dangerous bills are passed.”
The passage of these bills by the Oklahoma Senate comes after a historically poor 2021 session that saw a record number of anti-transgender bills introduced and passed across the country. Caught in the crosshairs of the divisive political strategy of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials are children who are simply trying to navigate their teenage years – children who face relentless targeting and increasing levels of discrimination in their community, such as in witness record incidents of deadly violence against transgender and gender non-binary people in 2021.
These bills could trigger legal action, and federal courts have ruled overwhelmingly in favor of transgender rights in recent years.
Numerous federal courts have upheld LGBTQ+ rights, including many rulings on Title IX protections for transgender students. Idaho recently passed a law restricting transgender student athletes, and Chief Justice David Nye of the U.S. District Court in Idaho, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed 100-0 by the U.S. Senate, spoke out against. There is also an injunction against the West Virginia law and ongoing lawsuits against similar bans in Tennessee, Florida, etc.
SB 2 and HB 4245 target some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children, again.
Beginning with the “Bathroom Bills” several years ago, national organizations have prioritized different iterations of legislation targeting transgender youth in dozens of states. Due to the hardships and discrimination they face, more than half of transgender youth have seriously considered suicide, according to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey of LGBTQ+ Mental Health. More than two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth said recent debates over state laws that target transgender people had a negative impact on their mental health, according to a 2022 Trevor Project poll. Legislation like HB 4245 contributes to the climate of negative and exclusionary messages that transgender youth face.
Businesses, advocacy groups and athletes oppose anti-trans legislation
More than 180 major American companies have stood up and spoken out in opposition to proposed anti-transgender legislation in states across the country. Companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, Airbnb, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike, and Paypal have opposed state anti-LGBTQ legislation. Four of America’s largest food companies also condemned “dangerous and discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender and non-binary people,” and the The Walton Family Foundation released a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas.
Many are rightly protecting the legacy of women’s sport in this country, and a strong Title IX is at the heart of that legacy. It is important to note that advocates for women and girls in sport – such as the National Women’s Law Center, Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports and others – support inclusive policies and oppose efforts aimed at excluding transgender students from sports participation. The same goes for top female athletes including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe and Cheryl Reeve. Indeed, while women’s sports face real challenges, including a lack of resources dedicated to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them.
The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups, representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations, have released an open letter calling on state lawmakers countries to oppose dozens of bills targeting LGBTQ+ people and transgender children in particular.
Nearly 550 college athletes have resisted anti-transgender legislation demanding that NCAA championships be removed from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.
Anti-transgender attacks as a topic of political discussion
Lawmakers in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. In 2021, lawmakers in twelve states passed anti-LGBTQ+ bills although they did not provide examples of what exactly they legislate against.
The mere act of introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric has already had a detrimental effect, leading to Resources for LGBTQ+ youth are surreptitiously removed from a government website, 11-year-olds literally have trouble sleeping, and a school district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent’s complaint. 2021 and 2020 have been the deadliest and second deadliest years on record for trans and gender non-conforming people, respectively, with the human rights campaign recording at least 50 violent deaths in 2021 alone. A new Trevor Project investigation shows that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by these legislative attacks.
Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radical question on its own— in large part because transgender youth are among the most marginalized, voiceless, and helpless communities in America and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing misogynistic, racist, and sexist tropes about gender roles.
Trans equality is popular across all demographics
The reality is that, as sensational and polarizing as this issue may seem, public opinion polls across the country show strong support for inclusive and pro-equality policies:
Recent PRRI data shows that a large majority of Americans (82%) support laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing, and majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (85%) and Democrats (92%) support non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans. It also shows that 75% of Oklahomans support discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, 65% of Oklahomans support marriage equality, and 61% of Oklahomans oppose denial of service on religious grounds.
A PBS/NPR/Marist Poll says 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose anti-transgender legislation banning sports that is proliferating in 30 states.
In a poll of 10 swing states conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group in 2020 showed:
At least 60% of Trump voters in each of the ten swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.
At least 87% of respondents in each of the ten swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states exceeding 90% support.
When respondents were asked how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports over other political issues, the question came last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing at the question.
Another survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group found that when it comes to transgender youth participation in sports, the strong public tilt is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student-athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sport is important in the lives of young people. Young transgender people should have the opportunity to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are considered full members of society at home, at work and in every community.