The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. on Tuesday and released a guidebook pointing to laws it deems discriminatory in each state, along with “know your rights” information and resources to help people relocate to states with stronger LGBTQ+ protections.
Sounding the alarm about the current political climate, the nation’s largest organization devoted to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans said travel advisories aren’t enough to help people already living in states where lawmakers have targeted LGBTQ+ people.
“We need champions right now,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said in an interview with The Associated Press. President Joe Biden and other LGBTQ+ rights supporters with decision-making authorities, she said, need to be more than just allies.
The declaration is a call to action for “people in power at every level” of government and the business community, she said, urging them to fight for LGBTQ+ rights with the same fervor as they’ve fought for abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.
“When Dobbs fell, you saw a federal response to deal with the abortion crisis that we’re in,” Robinson said. “We are in a crisis of even greater scale to the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community, and we need that same sort of response.”
Just a few days into Pride Month, the campaign said it’s taking action in response to an “unprecedented and dangerous” spike in discriminatory legislation sweeping state houses this year, with more than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced and more than 70 signed into law so far in 2023 — more than double last year’s number. In a report released Tuesday, it said the new laws are a result of coordinated Republican efforts, supported by “well-funded extremist groups.”
A recent Associated Press analysis found that many bills seeking to ban or restrict gender-affirming health care for transgender youth, who have been the primary targets of state legislation this year, sprang not from grassroots or constituent demand, but from the pens of a few powerful conservative interest groups.
The HRC guidebook, meanwhile, provides information about filing complaints for civil rights violations and points to resources for financing moves and finding employment, particularly in the 17 states with a trifecta of Democratic leadership in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. It also offers tips on how to engage in local advocacy and how to navigate tough conversations about LGBTQ+ policies with friends and family.
“The amount of calls I get every day from parents asking how they can move to another state because they’d rather mourn their home than their child is real,” Robinson said. “This is a different level of urgency and demanded a different level of response.”
The emergency declaration is the first in the 43-year history of the HRC, which encompasses a foundation focusing on research, advocacy and education, national and state lobbying campaigns and a political action committee that supports and opposes candidates for office. It comes as Republican-dominated legislatures around the country have restricted various aspects of transgender existence, from pronoun usage and bathroom access to medical care and more.
Among the latest, one of a series of bills that could receive final passage as soon as Tuesday in Louisiana would broadly ban K-12 public school employees from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. The legislation is similar to the Florida law critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”
As many LGBTQ+ Americans are celebrating their identities this month against the backdrop of a dizzying array of new restrictions, some trans people and their families are scrambling to flee their home states. Others have suddenly found themselves without access to medical care many credit as life-saving, and are turning to often-dangerous “do-it-yourself” hormone treatments to avoid involuntarily reversing their physical transitions.
And as Pride Month festivities kick off this week, organizers are beefing up security amid threatened protests by some extremist groups. A mass shooting last fall inside a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs left many LGBTQ+ community members feeling especially vulnerable.
Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.