New report shows rise in anti-transgender legislation in 2016

From 2015 to 2016, there has been an increase in the number of proposed legislative bills that discriminate against LGBT people, and transgender people in particular. Despite a rise in awareness of issues facing transgender people, the number of anti-transgender bills proposed in 2016 is twice that of 2015, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign. The report counted about 175 anti-LGBT bills, 44 of which specifically target transgender people. Of those 44 bills, twenty-nine target the use of sex-segregated spaces, such as schools, sports, public restrooms; two of the bills would deny transgender people acccess to necessary health care and the right to change the gender marker on their birth certificate; and three are aimed at undoing existing non-discrimination provisions. Five of the anti-transgender bills are so-called "First Amendment Defense Act" (FADA) bills, which would allow publicly funded programs, agencies or individuals to refuse service to the LGBTQ community based on religious beliefs. This allows individuals to justify discrimination based on religious reasons.

In 2015, lawmakers introduced 125 anti-LGBT bills aroudn the country, with 21 of the bills specifically targeting transgender people. None became law, but concern has grown this year as South Dakota's legislature recently passed a bill that would ban transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. Gov. Dennis Daugaard has not signed the bill into law, and many advocates are hopeful that his recently stated agreement to a meeting with local transgender students will persuade him from doing so.

The repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in 2015 also underscored the need for greater attention to the media coverage of nondiscrimination legislation. Media Matters for America documented local coverage of the ordinance, noting that anti-transgender messages were frequently unchallenged, and focus on transgender people's access to the bathroom predominated despite the ordinance's protection of 14 other characteristics. In light of these findings and this most recent report on anti-LGBT and anti-transgender legislation from HRC, GLAAD urges media to hold lawmakers accountable for biased and unfounded statements, and to include the experiences of LGBT people themselves in coverage of these harmful bills.