In June, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies across the country hold community parades, festivals and other activities to come together in a safe space to recognize and affirm the gay community and to celebrate the protections that have been secured over time for themselves and their families.
But there’s a feeling of foreboding this year, as many LGBTQ+ members fear the countrywide legislative efforts that are threatening their very existence and well-being. After years of progress, legal protections that the gay community thought were secured, like marriage, suddenly seem at risk. Even the acknowledgement of the existence of gay people in our society seems to be in question again. And most disturbing, those being most targeted are LGBTQ+ youth.
At the state level, Florida and Texas have garnered much of the attention with the “Don’t Say Gay” law and prohibiting transgender students from participating in sports and accessing health care. It might be tempting to chalk these up to anomalies, but this pattern is being repeated across the country. While the words are often overused, these efforts are creating a chilling effect in our schools, and putting LGBTQ+ youth and adults at risk.
The Florida Don’t Say Gay law allows a parent to bring a legal action against a school district if a discussion regarding sexual orientation or gender identity is deemed by the parent to not be age or developmentally appropriate. Similar legislation has been introduced or passed in 11 others states so far.
This broad law inevitably is resulting in school districts eliminating even acknowledgment of gay or transgender people to avoid potential litigation. Additionally, across the country, 86 school districts in 26 states have instituted more than 1,500 book bans within the last year, primarily targeting books focused on race and LGBTQ+ issues and written by nonwhite and/or LGBTQ+ authors.
In Texas, transgender youth were first a target for seeking to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity. Proponents of these bills decried the unfairness to other girls, even though a transgender female doesn’t necessarily have any physical benefit over their teammates. Girls’ sports would benefit far more if those supporting these bans instead focused on actually supporting and investing in female athletes. Just in the past two years, 15 states have passed laws banning transgender athletes’ sport participation.
Quickly on the heels of these efforts came the health care bans, preventing transgender youth from any gender-affirming health care. Studies show that supporting transgender youth with gender-affirming assistance reduces depression and suicide, and that children identify their gender as early as three years old.
Fourteen states in addition to Texas have passed similar laws, even criminalizing crossing state lines for health care treatment. Texas has made gender-affirming care “child abuse” with mandatory reporting.
The Supreme Court leak of the anticipated decision in Dobbs v. Jackson sent more fear within the gay community. When Obergefell v Hodges was decided in 2015, the legal landscape changed profoundly for gay couples who could be legally wed and share in all the legal benefits and protections that others had.
Seven years later, this seemed to be settled law. Based on the leaked rationale for overturning Roe, it no longer feels settled. Rights not expressly stated and not understood to be deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions, and with the backdrop of state by state legislation as outlined above, the protections that seemed to have finally been achieved for the LGBTQ+ community feel at great risk.
And lest you think LGBTQ+ Marylanders are safe, Carroll County just voted to ban the display of the rainbow Pride flag in all classrooms, and some Maryland school districts, including Carroll and Frederick counties, are coming under attack for planning to implement a new health curriculum adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education in 2019, which acknowledges the existence of gay and transgender individuals.
These efforts are disturbing and in our opinion, going in the wrong direction. The legal system is being used to target, marginalize and harm the LGBTQ+ community. We encourage our state and local legislators and officials to continue to value the well-being of all Marylanders, particularly LGBTQ+ youth.
Editorial Advisory Board members Arthur F. Fergenson, Debra G. Schubert and Angela W. Russell did not participate in this opinion.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
Gary E. Bair
Andre M. Davis
Arthur F. Fergenson
Julie C. Janofsky
Ericka N. King
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
H. Mark Stichel
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.