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Arizona lawmakers and activists push back against anti-LGBTQ bills

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. In 2020 lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Ducey’s desk- he vetoed it

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Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs hung Trans & LGBTQ+ Pride flags on the balcony of the historic state Capitol building on Friday, June 28, 2019. Courtesy of Arizona Secretary of State’s Office

PHOENIX – Political leaders and activists in Arizona are sounding the alarm bells over nearly a dozen anti-LGBTQ bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in the state legislature. 

The discriminatory bills – totaling nine to date, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – mirror much of the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced last year around the country, in what was a record year for legislation attacking the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people. 

Three of the bills – Senate Bill 1130, which would ban gender-affirming care for minors, Senate Bill 1165, an anti-trans sports bill, and House Bill 2112, which could prohibit the teaching of racism and sex discrimination – are set for committee meetings this week. 

Senate Bill 1130 was introduced by Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who, as the Blade reported last year, is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and a member of the far-right anti-government militia organization Oath Keepers.

Other bills would limit gender markers on official documentation to only “male” and “female,” make educators only use incorrect pronouns for students if it differs from their birth certificate and force students to get written permission to join clubs involving gender identity or sexuality. 

“This is an attack on human rights,” said Arizona state Rep. César Chávez, chairman of the Arizona LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, at a press conference hosted by the HRC. “We’re criminalizing individuals for being who they are. On top of that, we’re criminalizing doctors and health care workers, individuals that are doing their job.”

Sponsors of these bills say that they will benefit their communities and protect women and children. However, Chávez accused the Republican party of wanting to “attack our youth and those individuals who identify as LGBT+.” 

Lizette Trujillo, a parent of a trans child in Tucson, Arizona, detailed the toll that the proposed legislation takes on her son and her family. 

“Legislators in our state are wielding their power to leverage the most vulnerable youth in our state to further their political careers,” she said, adding: “This causes irreparable harm on the transgender community.” 

She also had an urgent message for members of her community: “Help us stop power-hungry legislators in this blatant attack,” she said. “Help us stop our government from using parents like me and kids like mine as their political pawns. Transgender kids exist – protect them, believe them, support them and affirm them.

Trujillo, who is also a member of the HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council, has become accustomed to the fight for her son’s rights. In 2019, the HRC featured her for “leading the charge” for LGBTQ-inclusive education within the Tucson Unified School District. 

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. Last year, state lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. But he ended up vetoing the bill, calling it “broad and overly vague.” 

Now, pro-LGBTQ lawmakers and activists in the state are readying to push back against such legislation. 

According to Bridget Sharpe of HRC Arizona, the group plans to show up to the statehouse and testify against the anti-LGBTQ legislation. She said that is the best way to get results. They will make their first appearance Thursday, where Trujillo will be a speaker. 

Chávez wants to have conversations with his colleagues across the aisle, noting that it has “become a rarity here in the Arizona State Legislature,” but that they are “very meaningful.”

“I will say that it’s going to take political will from my Republican colleagues to be able to vote against these bills,” he said.

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Arizona

Arizona bill passes- parents can sue teachers for ‘usurping’ parental rights

“The consistent targeting of LGBTQ youth by the Arizona Legislature is a disgrace. School is sometimes the only place these kids feel safe”

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Arizona Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Arizona)

PHOENIX – A bill that allows parents to sue teachers for ‘usurping’ parental rights passed the state senate this week and is headed to the House for a final vote before being sent to Republican Governor Doug Ducey for his signature.

House Bill 2161, authored by Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, initially was crafted to make it illegal for a government employee to withhold information that is “relevant to the physical, emotional or mental health of the parent’s child,” and specifically prevents teachers from withholding information about a student’s “purported gender identity” or a request to transition to a gender other than the “student’s biological sex.”

The bill would allow parents to sue school districts if teachers don’t comply.

After considerable opposition and uproar the bill was reworked with that specific language removed although the bill’s language now prohibits a school, political subdivision or government from “usurping the fundamental right” of a parent in raising their children, allows a parent to bring a civil suit against any government entity or official that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights in Arizona law, gives parents the rights to all written or electronic records from a school about their child — including a students counseling records — and requires schools to notify parents before a survey is conducted of students, among other changes.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and others charge that the vagueness of the current language would still expose educators to the risk of being sued. The Arizona Mirror reported that Sen. Christine Marsh, a Phoenix Democrat and the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year said that “I am a hard ‘no’ on this bill,” when explaining her vote on the Seante floor Monday afternoon. She added that the vague wording of “usurping the fundamental right” in the bill will likely lead to many parents filing lawsuits. 

“Anything could potentially qualify for it so we might have a whole bunch of teachers going to court for this,” she added.

Those concerns were also echoed by her Democratic Senate colleagues the Mirror reported  during committee hearings on the bill who feared that if passed, the bill could see librarians getting in trouble for recommending books that conflict with a parent’s worldview. 

Rep. Daniel Hernández told the Blade on Wednesday, “The consistent targeting of LGBTQ youth by the Arizona Legislature is a disgrace. School is sometimes the only place these kids feel safe. I encourage Arizona lawmakers to tackle bringing down prices and fixing our roads and bridges instead of making life harder for an already vulnerable group of students.”

Arizona Republic news columnist and longtime capital observer EJ Montini noted in his column Tuesday:

“For years, the Republican majority in the Arizona Legislature has waged war on public education, most specifically targeting teachers. Low pay. Ridiculous expectations. Insults. Intimidation,” he wrote.

“Working its way through the Legislature so that it may soon land on Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk is House Bill 2161, a dangerously obtuse piece of legislation that would allow parents to sue teachers and other government officials if they “usurp” a parent’s “fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.”

What does that mean, exactly? Well, your guess is as good as mine. As good as anybody’s.

By the looks of it, HB 2161 is a way for lousy parents to sue good teachers. Essentially, it presents the cynical notion that teachers know the children in their classes better than the children are known by their mothers and fathers. And that teachers have more influence over children than their mothers and fathers,” Montini wrote.

Equality Arizona and other LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are raising the alarm that House Bill 2161 specifies that parents are allowed to object to instructional materials if it “questions [their] beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.”

This language has been labeled as a pathway to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ practices by activists.

HB2161 also spells out that parents must also be notified in advance if a teacher plans to incorporate “sexuality” into instructional materials other than sex education, and will be given the option to opt their children out.

The bill would also prohibit school districts from offering sex education to students unless their parents sign a permission slip allowing them to participate. But even if a parent allows their child to receive sex education, this bill specifically would give them the “right” to ban their child from learning about AIDS.

The dangerous portion of the bill’s language that activists say will seriously harm LGBTQ+ youth are provisions that would give parents the right to access all written and electronic records pertaining to their child, including participation in extracurricular activities and clubs, counseling records, reports of behavioral patterns, and email and other online accounts.

If an LGBTQ+ youth was not Out at home or was having problems that language could endanger the young person and compounds the problem by putting teachers who are assisting LGBTQ+ youth at risk of lawsuits.

The bill passed 16-12. Because it was amended in the Senate, it returns to the House of Representatives for a final vote possibly this week, after which it would go to Gov. Ducey for his signature.

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Arizona

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey refuses to say Trans people exist

According to the Associated Press, when specifically asked if he believed that there “are really transgender people,” the governor paused

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Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug (Screenshot/Arizona Public Media)

PHOENIX – Refusing to directly reporter’s questions Thursday the day after he signed Senate Bill 1138, which bans some types of medical care for transgender youth, and Senate Bill 1165, which prevents transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity, Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey refused to say if transgender people actually exist.

According to the Associated Press, when specifically asked if he believed that there “are really transgender people,” the governor paused for several seconds before answering.

“I’m going to ask you to read the legislation and to see that the legislation that we passed was in the spirit of fairness to protect girls sports in competitive situations,” Ducey said, referring to the new law that targets transgender girls who want to play on girls sports teams. “That’s what the legislation is intended to do, and that’s what it does.”

Asked again if he believed there are “actual transgender people,” he again answered slowly and carefully.

“I … am going to respect everyone, and I’m going to respect everyone’s rights. And I’m going to protect female sports. And that’s what the legislation does,” Ducey said.

Bridget Sharpe, the Arizona director of the Human Rights Campaign, described Ducey’s statements as “appalling.” “It’s quite shocking that he can’t even address trans people or even say that he thinks they exist,” Sharpe said.

The governor also signed abortion legislation that mirrors a Mississippi law currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court that will  will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks.

“Across the country, moderate Republicans are struggling—and too often failing—to stop the takeover of their party by dangerous extremists. Today’s trio of extreme AZ laws, one stripping away the right to abortion and two targeting transgender youth, show that Arizona is losing that battle.  We are in danger of watching large segments of our nation give way to authoritarian extremism,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, (NCLR) told the Blade in a phone call.

Ducey  is in the last year of his second term as Arizona governor and state law on term limits him from seeking reelection.

Cathi Herrod, the virulent anti-LGBTQ+ head of the Center for Arizona Policy lauded the governor’s actions telling the Associated Press that the legislation protects the unborn, ensures a level playing field for female athletes and shows that “Arizona will do everything it can to protect vulnerable children struggling with gender confusion” by enacting the surgery ban.

In a news release she posted on Twitter, Herrod wrote: “Thank you, Governor Ducey, for taking a bold stand for women athletes, vulnerable children, and the unborn by putting your signature on (the bills) in the face of intense opposition from activists.”

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Arizona

Arizona Governor signs three laws limiting transgender rights, abortion

“Today alone, on the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility, three anti-trans bills were signed into law across the country”

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Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (Screenshot NBC News 12 Phoenix)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1138, which bans some types of medical care for transgender youth, and Senate Bill 1165, which prevents transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

The governor also signed abortion legislation that mirrors a Mississippi law currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court that will  will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks.

“Across the country, moderate Republicans are struggling—and too often failing—to stop the takeover of their party by dangerous extremists. Today’s trio of extreme AZ laws, one stripping away the right to abortion and two targeting transgender youth, show that Arizona is losing that battle.  We are in danger of watching large segments of our nation give way to authoritarian extremism,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, (NCLR) told the Blade in a phone call Wednesday.

The Arizona abortion legislation mirrors a Mississippi law now being considered by the nation’s high court. The bill explicitly says it does not overrule a state law in place for more than 100 years that would ban abortion outright if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that enshrined the right to abortion in law, NBC News reported.

“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life — including preborn life,” Ducey said in a signing letter. “I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them.”

Ducey is an abortion opponent who has signed every piece of anti-abortion legislation that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015. He said late last year that he hoped the Supreme Court overturns the Roe decision, the Associated Press noted.

In 2014, then-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed an anti-LGBTQ+ bill in Arizona because she said it divided the state, did not address any specific or present concern for Arizonans, and would lead to adverse legal and economic consequences for the state. She also called for “greater respect and understanding among ALL Arizonans.”

Two Republican governors, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, vetoed anti-trans sports bans similar to SB 1165 last week, rejecting the discriminatory bills approved by their legislatures. The governors cited high suicide rates among transgender youth and concerns over legal challenges, which have followed similar laws in other states.

Also on Wednesday Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law Senate Bill 2, a bill which would restrict transgender girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.

“While the problems transgender and nonbinary youth cause communities are hypothetical, the harms these laws will cause them are very real. We’re talking about a group of marginalized young people who have consistently been found to be at greater risk for bullying, depression, and attempting suicide — and 85% say recent debates around anti-trans laws have even further negatively impacted their mental health,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy & Government Affairs. “Today alone, on the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility, three anti-trans bills were signed into law across the country. This onslaught is not an accident; it is overwhelming by design and in direct response to progress in the fight for trans rights. But the Trevor Project will continue supporting our young people while we continue the fight against these policies. We are here for you, and we are not going anywhere.”

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