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2016 State Legislative Report: Anti-Transgender Legislation Spread Nationwide

55 anti-transgender bills were filed in 20 states. Three passed. Twenty-six targeted children.

In many ways, 2015 was a great year for transgender people – so great, in fact, that some dubbed it a “transgender tipping point” due to the increased level of public awareness surrounding transgender issues. Tragically, there was also an increased level of anti-transgender violence, particularly targeting transgender women of color. In 2015, at least 21 transgender people were victims of fatal violence in the U.S., more killings of transgender people than any other year on record. Hard fought losses at the ballot box emboldened opponents to export their transphobic smear campaign to other places. Additionally, state legislatures across the country unleashed a slew of anti-transgender bills trying to stem the tide of rising social and legal acceptance of transgender people. While none of these measures passed in 2015, the 2016 state legislative season threatened to be, and ultimately was, even worse.

A stunning 202 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed in 34 states – that’s 76 percent of states that had legislative sessions this year. These bills ranged from attempts to turn the clock back on marriage equality to bills creating a license to discriminate against same-sex couples with taxpayer dollars to protecting those who peddle the discredited, abusive practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” These bills would harm transgender people as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people. But of the record 202 anti-LGBTQ bills filed, 55 of those bills directly target transgender people. Unfortunately, three anti-transgender bills passed this year: the infamous HB2 in North Carolina, which mandates discrimination against transgender people in publicly-owned facilities at the same time it overturned LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, among other harmful provisions; H.B. 1523 in Mississippi which allows individuals and businesses to cite religious belief about marriage or gender identity as a legal reason to refuse service to LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed parents and others; and a non-binding legislative resolution passed in Oklahoma in opposition to the guidance issued by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education related to discrimination against transgender students in schools.

The proliferation of these bills is deeply disturbing, and they stem from fear of and a lack of understanding about transgender people. One legislator justified his support of an anti-trans bill in his state by characterizing transgender people as “twisted” – so battling back these bills is really about continuing to tip the scales toward the true tipping point for transgender Americans. A summary of the anti-transgender legislation we saw this legislative season can be read here.

This week, HRC marks Transgender Week of Awareness, dedicated to the progress, continued challenges, and unfinished work in the fight for transgender equality. Throughout the week, HRC will dedicate each day to urgent and important issues facing the transgender community, including support for youth and families, workplace equality, access to life-saving and inclusive health care, and combatting violence against the transgender community. The week concludes with with Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 when the community comes together for vigils around the country to honor those lost in the past year. Learn more at hrc.im/TransAwarenessWeek.