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New wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation directs hostilities towards youth

Hundreds of new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2023 has made its way through the various stages of the ratification process.

Many of these proposed bills target minors and youth of the community, pitting government representatives against their own constituents. These go as far as granting parental control in decisions regarding gender identities, religion and upbringing.

LGBTQ+ youth across the United States is under ubiquitous threat from legislation, with the American Civil Liberties Union tracking nearly 496 anti-LGBTQ+ bills as of October 5. Many of the bills haven’t made it to law, but are continuing to be filed as the year progresses.

Southern states, as recorded by the ACLU, are noted as having a majority of the bills that make up anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. States with the largest amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation are Texas with 54 bills followed by Missouri with 48 bills.

This wave of House and Senate bills introduces an enormous amount of education-related legislation. With 283 bills introduced as of April 3, public schools have seen a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rules. Some of these include restrictions on gender identity or sexual orientation, related classroom discussions and even prohibiting preferred pronouns.

Students placed in environments such as these are faced with the challenges of navigating topics of sexual orientation and gender identity without adequate resources. LGBTQ+ youth are some of the most vulnerable members of this community, with mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression being prevalent among the community.

The most recent bill making headway out of the state of Ohio, House Bill 68, also known as “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act (SAFE Act),” seeks to obstruct LGBTQ+ youth access to gender health services and bar trans athletes from women’s sports in the state of Ohio.

HB 68 originally had only encompassed access to gender health services. Following an additional bill, House Bill 6 became adapted with HB68, combining forces to gain more common ground amongst Ohio House members.

The Ohio House drafted wording on HB 68 that looks to misdirect mental health services. The wording guides mental health experts towards other outlying reasons for LGBTQ+ youth seeking counseling contrary to any physician-patient privilege. A section directly out of HB 68 states what a mental health expert should do when confronted with LGBTQ+ youth seeking assistance.

“No mental health professional shall diagnose or treat a minor individual who presents for the diagnosis or treatment of a gender-related condition without screening the minor individual for both of the following during the course of diagnosis and treatment:

(1) Other comorbidities that may be influencing the minor individual’s gender-related condition, including depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and other mental health conditions;

(2) Physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse and other traumas.”

HB 68 was passed by the House on Sept. 13 and currently awaits approval from the Senate.

The last piece of legislation approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed through the state of North Carolina. Senate Bill 49, otherwise known as the “Parents Bill of Rights,” is a bill that grants parental rights over youth’s decisions, whether LGBTQ+ or not, regarding religion and upbringing.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the “Parents Bill of Rights” was overturned by both the North Carolina House and Senate. Many members of the North Carolina public ridiculed the decision making the claim that the Republican supermajority is targeting LGBTQ+ youth, rather than budgeting for education, employee healthcare benefits or the increase in natural climate disasters.

LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S. are facing an unprecedented reversal in legislative support. With Congress seemingly still reeling from ousting representative Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House, the Republican party is still unsure of who will officially take the mantle of Speaker when Patrick McHenry’s temporary hold is over.

Resources available for LGBTQ+ youth include The Trevor Project and others located on GLAAD’s website, a non-profit organization focused on LGBTQ+ advocacy.

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