The Diplomatic Reach: All Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills Defeated in Richmond

VOLUNTEERS MEET WITH legislators during one of Equality Virginia’s five “Lobby Days” this year. (Photo: Equality Virginia)

Most of us wake up each morning with at least a vague sense that it’s the year 2023 — and for the Republican Party this is unacceptable, so they are hell-bent on bringing back vintage homophobia this year, evident in a wave of legislation across the country targeting LGBTQ+ rights — and terrorizing trans youth in particular.

The ACLU is currently tracking 321 anti-LGBTQ+ bills across 34 state legislatures, including twelve in Virginia, most intentionally crafted to irreparably harm trans youth, physically and emotionally.

The Republican party has identified trans issues as a “red meat” issue that Republicans can latch onto to survive their primaries, where extreme positions are rewarded and bipartisan appeal, to which candidates often pivot for the general election, is punished. In most of these states, gerrymandering has made the primary the only election that matters.

Enter the common red herrings about bathrooms, sports, and “grooming,” — made bold-faced by the right even as trans students continue to not harm society, but instead are true victims of actual harm. The gaslighting and misdirection is fairly consistent (i.e. the “Critical Race Theory” panic). Racism is a problem; teaching children actual history is not. Hate crimes are a problem; laws protecting LGBTQ+ folks are not. School safety is a problem; but because of guns, not a half-baked theory about trans “groomers.”

If anything, the current generation of school-age youth has shown a natural competence and compassion that leaps far beyond anything shown by society at-large. Nothing about this is weird to them other than the obsession some seem to have about the private lives of others.

Cathryn Oakley, State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel for Human Rights Campaign (HRC), described the anti-LGBTQ+ movement as deceitful by design during a virtual briefing on the record-breaking legislative onslaught.

“We know that these bills don’t sit well with the general electorate, but for most of these legislators, [that] isn’t their target demo.” Oakley said, in a reference to district gerrymandering. “These organizations do not care whether trans folks are able to give informed consent… they are working on banning gender affirming care for everybody.”

Indeed, embedded in legislation regarding youth were clauses obviously targeting the adult LGBTQ+ community, including one eliminating tax deductions for health care premiums for plans that cover gender affirming care.
“A good-faith person might be under the impression that whether to provide gender-affirming care is controversial,” added Kelley Robinson, HRC President, “[but] gender affirming care is supported by every credible medical organization.” She said they’re spending a lot of time debunking numerous falsehoods in the bills.

The Senate Education and Health Committee was pivotal in defeating most bills this year, killing all six Senate bills (SB791, SB911, SB960, SB962, SB1186, and SB1203) and both House bills that passed (HB1387 and HB2432). Northern Virginia Senators Dick Saslaw (D-Falls Church) and Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) both serve on the committee and helped prevent the laws from advancing. Four additional bills never made it out of the House.

“This session, anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the Virginia legislature targeted young people — especially trans and nonbinary youth — further stigmatizing them at home, at school and in their communities.” said Narissa Rahaman, Executive Director of Equality Virginia (EV), which had to expand its single annual Lobby Day into five separate events in order to keep up, “Schools should be safe spaces for all youth, and especially those who may face discrimination or feel singled out because of who they are.”

The bills were all defeated thanks to the razor-thin Democratic majority in the Senate and efforts of organizations like EV. “We saw a groundswell of opposition to these bills. We saw everyday Virginians show up in fierce opposition to all twelve bills and send a message that hate is not a Virginia value.” continued Rahaman. “While we have a long way to go to make our schools more equitable places for all youth, defeating these bills is a big deal.”

Rahaman has a message for trans youth: “To the trans youth in the commonwealth, I want to say: you are loved, you are perfect just the way you are, you are beautiful and you are worthy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
This year’s election is pivotal for the Commonwealth, with the entire Virginia House and Senate up. Please make a plan to vote — many of these bills were just a couple votes away from becoming law, which should be unacceptable to everybody in the year 2023.