10 States That Passed the Worst Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws in 2023

Author: Trudy Ring

2023: The Worst Year Ever for Anti-LGBTQ+ State Legislation


Florida, led by a Republican governor with presidential ambitions, Ron DeSantis, certainly earned a place in this hall of shame. It expanded the infamous “don’t say gay” law to ban public school instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity through high school graduation. It banned gender-affirming care for transgender minors and restricted it for some trans adults. Other new laws regulate trans people’s restroom access and restrict drag shows. Some of these measures are being challenged in court. In the recently concluded trial over the gender-affirming care law, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said DeSantis has outright lied about it. A ruling is expected early in 2024.

North Carolina, which had made progress on LGBTQ+ rights since its 2016 “bathroom bill” led to widespread outrage, took a big step backward in 2023. In August, legislators overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of three anti-LGBTQ+ bills. One limits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, similar to Florida’s notorious “don’t say gay” law. Another bans gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender minors. The third bars trans girls from playing on female sports teams in public schools and certain private ones, from middle school through college. A federal lawsuit has been filed against the gender-affirming care ban.

Idaho didn’t just ban gender-affirming care for trans minors — it made it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, to provide such care. It was the second state to deem this care a felony, after Alabama, which enacted its law in 2022. The law was supposed to take effect with the New Year, but a federal judge has temporarily blocked it while a lawsuit against it is heard. It wasn’t the only anti-LGBTQ+ law passed in the state in 2023; Republican Gov. Brad Little also signed an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” into law, along with a bill that could force school personnel to out LGBTQ+ students to parents.

North Dakota criminalized the provision of gender-affirming care as well, making it a felony to perform gender-affirming surgery on a minor for the purpose of transition (that wasn’t happening anyway) and a misdemeanor to prescribe puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones. During 2023, Gov. Doug Burgum, who was briefly in the Republican presidential race, signed several other anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including one that restricts trans people’s restroom use in some venues; two barring trans girls and women from competing on female sports teams, one affecting K-12 public schools, the other state colleges and universities; a “religious refusals” bill; one calling for the collection of vital statistics to be based on gender assigned at birth; one aimed at restricting drag performances, although some of the anti-drag language was watered down; and one banning gender changes on birth certificates.

Texas’s Republican leaders — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton— have kept up their reputation for hostility to LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and anyone seeking an abortion. Among anti-LGBTQ+ moves in 2023, the state became the most populous one to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors, and it’s seeking information on care provided to Texans in other states. It also enacted a law restricting drag shows. A federal judge has ruled that law unconstitutional, but Texas officials are appealing.

Kentucky legislators passed one of the nation’s worst anti-LGBTQ+ laws by overriding Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto. Senate Bill 150 includes a ban on all gender-affirming care for minors plus a prohibition on public school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity at all grade levels. It also requires school districts to “at a minimum” bar trans students from using the restrooms comporting with their gender identity and mandates that school personnel tell parents about confidential discussions with students about sexual orientation or gender identity, essentially forcing the outing of these students. It further lets teachers ignore students’ chosen pronouns. The gender-affirming care ban is being challenged in court.

Montana gained its place on this list with a gender-affirming care ban, a law allowing public schools to out transgender students to their parents, and legislation that will let parents withdraw their children from school if they object to the day’s lesson plan. All these measures had the backing of Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who also signed a bill into law that activists called an LGBTQ+ erasure act, establishing a binary definition of sex based on people’s chromosomes and their reproductive characteristics. The governor OK’d this bill despite opposition from his nonbinary son, David Gianforte. The debate on the gender-affirming care legislation saw trans Rep. Zooey Zephyr expelled from the House floor after she said lawmakers who supported it would have blood on their hands.

Iowa took a page out of Florida’s playbook, passing its own “don’t say gay” measure. It was part of a regressive education bill signed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, banning any lessons on sexual orientation or gender identity before the seventh grade, requiring teachers to alert parents if students wish to use new pronouns, and banning any books that depict sex or sex acts. During 2023, Reynolds also signed a gender-affirming care ban and legislation restricting trans students’ restroom use in public schools.

Numerous other states passed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation during the year. They include Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Many of them deal with gender-affirming care for trans youth, and several are being challenged in court. The year did end with a pro-LGBTQ+ action by a Republican governor, Ohio’s Mike DeWine, who vetoed bills that would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth and restrict trans students’ sports participation. However, an override is likely.

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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