Indiana lawmakers have filed a historic number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills this session. Advocates are raising concerns about what they’re calling a “slate of hate” targeting gender-affirming care bans for transgender youth, limits on classroom conversations and identification laws.
Before this year, lawmakers hadn’t filed more than seven anti-LGBTQ+ bills in a single session. And they often didn’t get hearings. This year, there are more than two dozen bills moving through the legislature.
Katie Blair is the director of advocacy and public policy for the ACLU of Indiana. She said advocating for LGBTQ+ issues in Indiana has never been easy.
“But this year? We’ve seen three times the amount of any year in the past, even our worst years. Three times the amount. It’s staggering,” Blair said.
She said this year’s “slate of hate” is backlash from marriage equality and the 2019 hate crimes law.
“We weren’t facing these kinds of awful pieces of legislation here. And now we’ve completely flipped it on its head,” Blair said. “And we’re reviving these old tropes that were used to discriminate against our community. They’re back.”
And it’s part of a national push to pass anti-trans legislation. More than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed in statehouses across the country.
“There’s always been anti-LGBTQ groups here in Indiana that had lobbying power. This year, and I would say last year, we’ve seen more out-of-state anti-LGBTQ players come to the table,” Blair said.
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These bills fall into a few buckets, Blair said.
Gender-affirming care bans
Gender-affirming care is health care that encompasses mental, social, medical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria. There are several bills that target surgical procedures (which aren’t recommended by medical associations for transgender folks younger than 18), hormone therapies and puberty blockers, which are largely reversible.
HB 1589 would expand the timeframe for medical malpractice claims against providers for gender-affirming care to 15 years after the patient turns 21. Malpractice lawsuits for care provided for minors older than 6 years old have two years to file claims.
There is also a bill to significantly limit what gender-affirming care is available to transgender people who are incarcerated. HB 1569 would ban people who are incarcerated from surgical transition procedures. It was amended in committee to allow access to hormone therapies. It is the only bill to limit gender-affirming care that has received a committee hearing.
Lawmakers have filed education bills to limit classroom instruction on LGBTQ+ issues and what advocates call “forced outing” bills – requiring educators to inform parents of classroom behavior or expression that could signal a student’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
HB 1608 and SB 386 would limit classroom instruction on LGBTQ+ issues.
HB 1608 bans schools and third party vendors from instruction for students from kindergarten to third grade on gender roles, stereotypes, fluidity, identity, expression or sexual orientation. And SB 386 would also limit teachers from “promoting certain concepts” in areas such as age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion or national origin. The legislation would create a way for parents to file a complaint with the school district over classroom instruction. This bill was scheduled for a committee hearing, but removed from the calendar.
HB 1346 would essentially ban schools from affirming students’ gender identity. It bans schools from compelling or encouraging students and staff members from using pronouns or names consistent with a person’s gender identity. It also prohibits supporting, adopting or promoting what it calls “gender fluidity” – claims that sex is a social construct, that it is possible for an individual to be any gender or no gender based on their identity, or that sex can be changed to align with their gender identity.
SB 354 and SB 413 are examples of “forced outing” bills. SB 354 would make teachers tell parents if a student expresses changes in certain aspects of their name, attire or pronouns. And SB 413 would make school boards require schools to notify parents they are providing services to support a student’s social-emotional, behavioral, mental or physical health. It would also require these policies to include a requirement that school staff inform parents if a student is given permission to use a multiple occupancy restroom or locker room that is designated for a gender that does not align with the student's assigned sex at birth.
None of these bills, so far, have received hearings.
Blair said bills that target transgender Hoosiers and their ability to update their identification to reflect their gender have been filed for the last few years. This year’s example is HB 1524.
HB 1524 would ban any changes to a person’s gender on their birth certificate unless there was a clerical error or certain medical tests revealed they were intersex.
Parental rights, child removal
The last bucket of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation are bills on child removal and the Department of Child Services.
HB 1232 and HB 1407 both seek to codify that the Department of Child Services may not remove a child from a home solely because of their gender identity and not providing gender-affirming care to the child.
HB 1407 went through second reading on Feb. 16. The full House still needs to vote on the bill before deciding whether or not to send it to the opposite chamber.
House bills must be passed by committee by Feb. 21 and Senate bills by Feb. 23. Even if bills miss those deadlines, language could be added to bills later in the session.
WFYI’s Lee V. Gaines contributed to this story.