How anti-trans bills are being challenged across the country

Republicans across the country are continuing to push anti-transgender laws and rhetoric, but the effort is meeting resistance from Democrats, as well as a series of legal challenges.

A Washington Post analysis published last month found that more than 400 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures throughout the U.S. since January, more than the total introduced over the past four years. The legislation is the culmination of a years-long project to push laws targeting transgender Americans that was spearheaded by a network of anti-trans activists, according to reporting by Mother Jones.

Missouri: New bans and an attempt at a sanctuary

Gov. Mike Parson at the microphone.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson at a press conference in 2019 to discuss the status of license renewal for a St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility. (Jacob Moscovitch/Getty Images)

Republican lawmakers in the Show-Me State passed bans Wednesday on transgender care for minors and on trans students playing on teams that don’t match their biological sex as listed on a birth certificate or government record. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, is expected to sign both bills, with the ban on care expiring in 2027, following concessions to Democrats in negotiations.

“House Republicans made it clear they will abuse the awesome power of government to terrorize a small group of innocent children and their families for political advantage,” House Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade said in a statement. This is dehumanizing, reprehensible and a complete failure of the majority to respect and protect the vulnerable among us from government overreach.”

The ban on gender-affirming care for youths follows more than a dozen similar bans across the country, ignoring the support for such treatments from groups like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The trans sports ban would cut state funding for any schools — from kindergarten through college, public or private — that allow transgender students to play on teams that aren’t aligned with the biological sex they were assigned at birth.

In response to the GOP action, the Kansas City Council passed a resolution Thursday that would make the state’s largest city a sanctuary for those seeking gender-affirming care. The resolution states that city personnel wouldn’t criminally prosecute or impose penalties on any person or organization involved in care. If a state law is passed, the resolution would make enforcement of anti-trans laws the “lowest priority.” Enforcement of the resolution could be complicated by the state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners.

“Kansas City government is committed to ensuring Kansas City is a welcoming, inclusive, and safe place for everyone, including our transgender and LGBTQ+ community,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a statement, adding, “For decades, Kansas City has been at the forefront of our region, ensuring we have equality for all, and we will continue to do everything in our power to fight for equal rights for all in our city, no matter what happens at our state capitol.”

Last month, Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey issued an emergency order that extended the restrictions on gender-affirming care for adults, making Missouri one of the first states in the nation to officially expand its sights to the entire trans community, not just to minors.

Kentucky: 'We will not have transgender'

State Sen. Max Wise and other officials at a podium marked Protect Kentucky Children, with protesters above showing such posters as: Protect Trans Kids, Puberty Blockers Are Safe Effective and Fully Reversible and Letting Kids Be Themselves Is Not Indoctrination.
Republican Kentucky state Sen. Max Wise at a press conference on March 29 at the Kentucky State Capitol to support anti-trans legislation, with protesters on the floor above displaying signs opposing the bill. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is up for reelection this fall, and with Republicans vying to win the nomination to oppose him, transgender rights have become an issue in the race. At a telephone town hall on Monday, one of the GOP candidates, Kelly Craft, pledged, “We will not have transgenders in our school system” if she is elected.

Craft, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration and whose husband is a coal magnate in the state, doubled down later in the event, saying that under her administration, “we will not have transgender.”

State Sen. Max Wise, Craft’s running mate, was one of the architects of sweeping anti-trans legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in March. While Beshear vetoed the bill, saying it “rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” GOP legislators overrode that veto. The new law eliminates gender-affirming care for trans youth, bans conversations about sexual orientation or gender for students of all grades, restricts bathroom use, and allows teachers to refuse to use a student's preferred pronouns.

Craft’s campaign released a statement this week defending her comments, saying, “Of course Kelly was referring to the woke ideologies being pushed in our schools. She has been advocating for the best for all children this entire campaign.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the current frontrunner in the Republican race to face Beshear, has also been supportive of the anti-trans legislation. Cameron said he “would have absolutely signed” the bill, describing treatments that are supported by medical professionals across the country as "chemical castration" and pledging to "protect our youth from dangerous ideologies."

Parents of trans children and advocacy organizations filed a lawsuit in Kentucky last week attempting to have the ban on gender-affirming care for youth overturned by the courts.

“Under the Constitution, trans youth in Kentucky have the right to medically necessary care," Corey Shapiro, legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said in a statement. "We are filing litigation today to protect against this imminent threat to their well-being and make certain they can thrive by continuing to receive medical care.”

Montana: Lawsuit filed over high-profile ban

Transgender rights activists on the march, chanting. One young woman has green hair, and one holds a poster saying: Trans People Belong in Montana, with a map of the state bisected by green, red and white stripes..
Transgender rights activists march through the University of Montana campus in Missoula on May 3. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A law passed in April that bans gender-affirming care for youths in Montana was formally challenged in court this week by two trans children, their parents and health care providers, represented by the ACLU of Montana and Lambda Legal. The lawsuit alleges that the ban serves no purpose but to “intentionally burden a transgender person's ability to seek necessary care to align their body with their gender identity.” The filing asks a judge to block the ban, which is set to take effect on Oct. 1.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the law last month, after it was passed along party lines in the Legislature. The GOP effort drew national attention after Republicans banned Democratic state Rep. Zooey Zephyr from speaking on the topic, in response to her comment that those who supported it would have blood on their hands. Zephyr, who is transgender, was then barred from the legislative chamber after a noisy session at the Capitol in Helena, in which she raised a microphone to amplify the chants of protesters who were there to rally against the bill.

“When my community is facing bills that get us killed, [Republican House Speaker Matt Regier is] asking me to be complicit in this Legislature's eradication of our community,” Zephyr said before the vote that barred her from entering the chamber and gallery. “And I refuse to do so, and I will always refuse to do so.”

Zephyr continued her work from just outside the chamber, voting from a bench in the hallway.