Session Update: Anti-Trans Legislation Advances Through Committee Hearings
Get an update on the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the state legislature
With an important legislative deadline now just a week away, members of the Arizona legislature have redoubled their efforts to move their bills through committee. In the past two weeks, virtually all remaining anti-LGBTQ+ bills have received committee hearings – by March 25, any that don’t will be left behind. For all of the LGBTQ+ advocates and allies who have attended these meetings, you know just how exhausting and at times demoralizing they can be, but we’ve also seen real victories this year, including a historic hearing just this week for LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination protections and a ban on conversion therapy for minors. From a mass of 18 bills introduced this session that posed serious concerns for LGBTQ+ rights, less than a third of those remain active threats, and even among those, substantial amendments have been won to protect the privacy, agency, and safety of Arizona’s LGBTQ+ communities.
The State of the Session
SB 1138: interference with standards of care for transgender youth
At the start of the session, SB 1138 was introduced as one of four comprehensive bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth. The other three – SB 1045, SB 1130, and HB 2608 – never received committee hearings, and when SB 1138 was first put to a vote, it failed. After voting against the ban, Senator Pace then introduced a strike-everything amendment to narrow the focus of the ban to “irreversible gender reassignment surgery,” noting that this would largely bring it in line with current standards of care for transgender youth. This is nearly true: under WPATH guidance, while irreversible genital surgeries are not recommended for patients under the age of 18, masculinizing breast surgeries are affirmed as a safe and appropriate option for minor patients who have socially and hormonally transitioned for at least 12 months. In its current form, SB 1138 bans all surgery indiscriminately. This bill is unnecessary and inappropriate. Transgender health care practices are constantly evolving to improve outcomes and increase safety, so it’s important for patients and doctors to be able to rely on medical experts to keep standards of care up to date. After a meeting of the House Judiciary committee on March 9, this bill has been cleared to move to the floor for debate in the committee of the whole.
SB 1165: discrimination against transgender girls in girls’ sports
In the same House Judiciary committee meeting, Senator Barto’s trans athlete ban also received a Do Pass recommendation and is now on a path to action in the committee of the whole. Testimony in committee (beginning at the timestamp 1:59:20 in the linked video) revealed that trans athletes constitute less than 1% of 1% of all student athletes in Arizona’s high schools. Bans on transgender athletes are unjustified by medical science, and any legislation targeting a minority population is entirely unwarranted. But while very few trans kids play sports in Arizona’s schools, this bill would subject all girls to uncomfortable surveillance of their bodies and expose them to potential bullying and harassment over any appearance of gender nonconformity or accusation of unfair advantage. There is so much diversity not only between genders, but between people of the same gender, and this is particularly true during adolescence. In its haste to single out and ostracize trans students, SB 1165 ignores basic social and biological realities, and would have drastic consequences for all girls.
HB 2161: privacy concerns for LGBTQ+ youth in education and healthcare
Prior to this week’s meeting of the Senate Education committee, we highlighted the risks HB 2161 posed for LGBTQ+ youth. Despite an early amendment that removed an explicit requirement for teachers to out trans students, the bill retained catch-all language that would have had the same effect in practice, along with a provision denying confidentiality to adolescents for sensitive medical care not requiring parental consent. However, after an involved process of advocacy and stakeholder engagement, a further amendment was approved by the committee to remove those sections of the bill altogether, eliminating the concerns for LGBTQ+ youth. What remains of the bill as it advances to the committee of the whole pertains mostly to parental access to school records, and no longer poses an active threat to LGBTQ+ rights.
HB 2495: censorship and sex-ed ban in schools
In the same committee meeting, Representative Hoffman repeated inaccurate claims that his bill would not ban books or limit sex education in Arizona’s schools. Whatever his intentions for the bill, this is simply not the case. While exemptions have been made for certain legally-vague categories of books, banning any descriptions of sexual activity (textual material can only “depict” by describing) would necessarily include a wide range of history and biology textbooks, as well as nearly all sexual education, none of which are exempt. This bill is continuing to move, and remains a significant concern.
HB 2802: historic-first committee hearing for statewide LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections
On Thursday, March 17, the House of Representatives held a historic-first ad-hoc informational hearing on HB 2802. Over a four-hour meeting, the committee modeled what many described as a better, more thoughtful and respectful deliberative process for public policy in the legislature. Opposition to non-discrimination protections centered almost exclusively on an antipathy towards trans people and trans rights – a timely reminder that the anti-trans legislative movement began as backlash to the non-discrimination ordinance passed by the City of Phoenix in 2013. By contrast, proponents of the bill represented a broad, bipartisan coalition of business, faith, and LGBTQ+ community groups from across the state. Arizona deserves comprehensive and inclusive non-discrimination protections, and we believe the historic success of this bill can serve as a template and model for policy and policymaking both here in future sessions and at the federal level.
What you can do today
It’s crucial that we stop SB 1138 and SB 1165 before they reach the governor’s desk. Today, use our online advocacy tool to send a message to your representatives in the Arizona legislature to ask them to oppose anti-trans legislation.
While March 25’s committee deadline will mean an end to most opportunities for public testimony, you can and still should show your opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ bills like SB 1138, SB 1165, and HB 2495 in the legislature’s Request to Speak system.
March 19 from 1:00 pm to 7:30 pm | Queer Poetry Salon
March 26 at 1:00 pm | Equality Arizona Chapter Meeting
March 26 at 3:00 pm | Volunteer Phone Bank to oppose SB 1138 + SB 1165
For our full calendar of events, visit our website.