Pride Month Spotlight: Conservative States and Biden Administration Moving in Opposite Directions on LGBTQ+ Rights

by Lauren Frank ‘23

June marks the beginning of Pride Month and for years, people from across the United States have rallied together and celebrated the LGBTQ+ community, whether it be through parades, rallies, or commemorations. While there have been many momentous steps to protect the rights of those in the community, many lawmakers and states are swiftly counteracting these measures. This past year, several conservative states, largely in the South, passed new laws, many of which have promoted homophobia and anti-gay values in schools and in society itself.

In schools, these new laws have made the environment less accepting and welcoming for students in the community. Notably, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill limits the access to mental health and counseling at school for kids who might be questioning their gender identity or sexuality, giving parents the option to opt-out of these services. Also, it restricts LGBTQ+ related material and discussions in the classroom. Overall, this law has caused a domino effect of new legislation and proposed laws throughout the country that would further limit the rights of LGBTQ+ youth in school settings.

New legislation at the state level is also restricting transgender people’s access to healthcare. Alabama has already enforced a law that outlaws gender-affirming care for minors, meaning those seeking out gender reassignment surgery or puberty-blocking hormones aligning with their gender identity are denied this care. The law also makes it a felony for a doctor to prescribe medication or perform the surgery for anyone under 19. More than a dozen states have proposed new legislation following Florida and Alabama. For instance, Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana have all proposed legislation that would similarly restrict gender-affirming care for children and restrict LGBTQ+ related material and discussions in schools.

In the midst of all this legislation, a strong and allied community of those fighting to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community is pushing back. Many government officials and organizations have condemned the recent rise in these hateful and discriminatory laws and hope to keep fighting for protection and equality.

The Biden Administration’s urgent call to action has stressed the importance in passing the Equality Act in Congress, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in employment, education, etc. Over half of the states currently have no legislation that would protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination, and the proposed law would fill in gaps by providing federal protection for the community against discrimination.

As people continue to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during this month and beyond, it is important to acknowledge the progress that has occurred since the Marsha P. Johnson Stonewall Riots in 1969, while realizing that the fight continues and currently is intensifying.