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Record number of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 2023

At least 510 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the United States last year — a new record, according to American Civil Liberties Union data. That’s nearly three-times the number of such bills introduced in 2022.

Education and health care-related bills, in particular, flooded in at unprecedented levels, according to the group’s data through December 21. Along with a renewed push to ban access to gender-affirming health care for transgender youth, there was a heavy focus on regulating curriculum in public schools, including discussions around gender identity and sexuality.

Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person transition from their assigned gender at birth to their affirmed gender — the gender by which a person wants to be known.

New bills were filed nearly every day and the landscape is changing quickly. “A bill that got introduced yesterday is almost old news,” said Kat Carrick, a professor at the George Washington University LGBT Health Policy and Practice Program in an April interview with CNN.

Last year, 314 education-related bills were introduced across the country — more than double the number of such bills introduced in 2022, according to ACLU data.

There has also been a shift toward new categories of bills. Just as states followed Florida’s bill that opponents labeled “Don’t Say Gay” — which restricts in-school discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity — several joined Tennessee in proposing bills that would ban drag performances.

“We have seen the scope and scale of these attacks increase over the last few years, starting around 2020-2021,” said Gillian Branstetter, communications strategist for the ACLU in an April interview with CNN. “This year, it’s not just the total number that has gotten worse, but the extremity of the bills.”

Several states introduced “forced outing” bills, requiring teachers to alert parents when a student begins going by a different name or pronouns — even without the consent of the student. Sixty-five of the education-related bills introduced this year are “forced outings” bills, according to ACLU data.

“[These bills] rely on this sort of paranoid idea that teachers are secretly encouraging your kids to identify as trans, and then not telling you about it,” said Branstetter. “It’s fundamentally important that all young people feel they can build trust with the people that they spend most of their day with, which are their teachers.”

The “other school barriers” category in the above chart includes two kinds of bills that would affect students’ preferred pronouns (if they do not correspond to the students’ sex assigned at birth), either by prohibiting teachers from referring to students by their preferred pronouns without parent consent or by allowing teachers to refuse to do so. It also includes “Parents’ Bill of Rights” bills that would require schools to publish curriculum publicly and allow parents to inspect books and reading materials made available in school libraries. Republican supporters argue that greater parental oversight will prevent exposure to “radical” literature and inappropriate discussions around race, gender and sexuality.

By the end of the year, 84 bills were signed into law in 23 states. That’s 16% of the total number of bills filed across the country in 2023. Tennessee and North Dakota tied for the most number of anti-LGBTQ bills passed, with 10 each.

More than a dozen of the bills passed last year are being challenged in court, according to the ACLU.

“We have seen the scope and scale of these attacks increase over the last few years, starting around 2020-2021,” Gillian Branstetter, communications strategist for the ACLU, told CNN in April. “It’s not just the total number that has gotten worse, but the extremity of the bills.”

This updated story originally ran on April 6, 2023 and has been updated with full annual totals for 2023.

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