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Senator breaks with GOP: Arizona anti-trans ballot measure dies

In a stunning defeat for anti-trans activists in Arizona, SCR1013 will not appear on the November ballot in the state

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Arizona Republican state Sen. Ken Bennett (LD-1 Prescott) (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | PHOENIX, Ariz. – In a stunning defeat for anti-trans activists in Arizona, a major bill targeting transgender people in schools has failed. The bill, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1013, would have banned transgender students from using bathrooms matching their gender identity. It also would have forced teachers to misgender their transgender students unless parental permission was received.

Most importantly, the bill would have placed the issues on the November election ballot, bypassing Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ veto, which has been used against similar legislation. This represents the first major ballot referendum on transgender people that has been defeated in 2024 and could signal Republican hesitancy around the electoral impacts of such referendums.

The bill was brought forward by Sen. John Kavanaugh, who has previously sponsored other legislation targeting transgender people in schools. Sen. Kavanaugh’s district includes portions of Scottsdale, Arizona, which is notably the same city where the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is headquartered.

The ADF has been intricately involved in the drafting and defending of anti-trans laws across the United States this year and has backed Chloe Cole, who is leading a similar referendum effort in California.

In the Senate Education Committee earlier this month, over 500 people registered opposition to the bill, and only 32 registered in favor, one of the most lopsided testimony ratios in any bill this year nationwide. Speaking against the bill in the hearing, Democratic Sen. Marsh pointed out the negative consequences that hearing such a bill would have, stating, “This will become a debate on a statewide level harming god knows how many kids and forcing them into further isolation, harassment, bullying, victimization, and vulnerability that comes. I think the effect of that will be incalculable.”

When it came time for a committee decision, Republican Sen. Ken Bennett voted in favor of the bill but stated he had concerns with the way the bill was written and that he would have trouble supporting it for final passage in the Senate.

Then, on Monday, the bill was brought forward for a final vote on the full Senate floor. Democratic senators read statements from parents and trans youth who would be impacted by the bill as the votes rolled in. Then, Republican Sen. Bennett voted “no,” explaining his vote: “I am very concerned about putting this bill to a vote of the people. These bills combined are roughly a third of the entire US Constitution. When we put things on the ballot for people to vote on them, if something goes awry, if there are unintended consequences, we have to go back to the people to fix it.”

The defeat means that in Arizona, the question will not advance to the November ballot. However, in other states, ballot measures are currently being pursued. In California, the group “Protect Kids California” has enlisted high-profile anti-trans activists such as Chloe Cole and Chris Elston to collect signatures. Measures there would out transgender students to their parents, ban them from participating in sports and using bathrooms that match their gender identity, and would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. Similar ballot measures are also being pursued in Colorado. Nevertheless, with the defeat of SCR1013, there may be hesitancy to push for this as a major ballot issue in 2024 in a swing state like Arizona.

Anti-LGBTQ legislation is not highly popular, especially in general election contests. In the most recent school board elections in 2023, Moms for Liberty lost 70% of their school board elections, having run primarily on anti-trans issues in schools. Meanwhile, Democrats took the House and Senate in Virginia after Gov. Glenn Youngkin pushed a party platform at rallies that targeted trans youth throughout the state. Anti-trans politics have also previously failed to help Republicans in Arizona. In the 2022 governor’s race, Republicans attempted to target Gov. Katie Hobbs’ husband for providing counseling for trans youth in the closing weeks of the campaign—a gambit that failed to swing results in their favor.

That is certainly what Gaelle Esposito, a partner at Creosote Partners who has worked with major organizations supporting transgender people in the state, believes. When asked about what the bill’s defeat says in an election year, she responded, “we are also starting to see that Republicans recognize that anti-trans hatred and pure bigotry is not a big winner for them. It’s not like they have seen time and again, including here in Arizona, that this just doesn’t play well with voters. It doesn’t sit well with people.”

Esposito added a hopeful message: “The fact that we didn’t see the full force of their network trying to squeeze them to get this on the ballot shows they know it too. That they, in an election year here in Arizona, where so much is critical for them, this went down in flames… I think shows how the tide is turning in our favor.”

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

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Arizona

Ariz. GOP lawmaker: U.S. ‘unrighteous’ because of LGBTQ people

“Monday’s sermon was a cynical display of religious intolerance, which used a coincidence in the calendar to attack LGBTQ+ Arizonans”

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Rep. Lupe Diaz, R-Benson, gives an opening sermon on April 1, 2024. (Screenshot via ACTV/azleg.gov)

By Joseph Darius | (LOOKOUT) PHOENIX, Ariz. – A state legislator on Monday used his time delivering a sermon that said a holiday to celebrate trans people was “dark,” proof of America being “unrighteous,” and then denounced non-Christians.

The sermon was given as the House of Representatives opened its daily floor session, during which lawmakers convene to vote on bills passed through committees. Every day, the House and Senate open their floor sessions with a prayer that is meant to be non-denominational, but Republicans who control both chambers have long only used Christians to speak.

But Rep. Lupe Diaz (R-Benson), who is also a minister, went a step further in his opening prayer Monday, and spent nearly five minutes on a fire-and-brimstone-styled sermon against non-Christians: “Eternal life is not available just to everybody, it is available just to those that acknowledge Jesus Christ,” Diaz said on the House floor.

The evangelical speech was given as a reaction to International Transgender Day of Visibility, which happened to be at the same time as Easter Sunday this year. (Easter changes yearly, whereas the Day of Visibility has been recognized on March 31 every year since 2009.)

Diaz incorrectly said that Pres. Joe Biden proclaimed the holiday on the same day as Easter this year, and went on to say that it was “proof” of “light” versus “dark,” and then followed up with saying the U.S. was an “unrighteous nation.”

LOOKOUT reached out to Diaz on Tuesday via email and through his secretary asking if he knew how Easter was scheduled, as well as if his comments reflect on his ability to govern or work with people of different religious denominations. His office did not respond by the given deadline.

No Republicans have commented on the sermon or Diaz’s comments.

Diaz does not hide his preference of combining state politics with his personal religion. His main website brandishes a large cross overlaying the American flag. it also says he began a career in civil service after “God called him to reach out to his community.”House Democrats, though, argued back moments after Diaz concluded. Rep. Lorena Austin (D-Mesa), one of the nation’s only non-binary lawmakers, said that “the Jesus I grew up learning” was kind and compassionate and doesn’t denounce anyone.

“A prayer is not a sermon,” Austin said. “And we were elected to serve the people and make laws to make their lives better, not condemn them.”

In statements released by the Arizona LGBTQ+ Legislative Caucus, Rep. Patty Contreras (D-Phoenix) said that the speech was religious bigotry on full display:

“Monday’s sermon was a coordinated and cynical display of religious intolerance, which used a coincidence in the calendar to attack LGBTQ+ Arizonans, and anyone who doesn’t fall in line with one member’s view of Christianity,” said Contreras, who is the vice-chair of the caucus.

Rep. Oscar De Los Santos (D.-Phoenix) who is also vice chair echoed Contreras’s statement, saying: “I stood and respectfully listened as my colleague damned me to Hell, but it is outrageous to hear such intolerance, divisiveness and disrespect directed at so many Arizonans inside the People’s House, with Republican members standing in support. This was a shameful moment.”

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Joseph Darius Jaafari/LOOKOUT

Joseph Darius Jaafari is the executive editor of LOOKOUT, a queer-focused nonprofit newsroom that aims to push LGBTQ+ stories to the front of people’s minds.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Arizona Mirror/LOOKOUT and is republished with permission.

Arizona Mirror is amplifying the voices of Arizonans whose stories are unheard; shining a light on the relationships between people, power and policy; and holding public officials to account.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Iconic Scottsdale Arizona LGBTQ+ bar calls it quits after 35 years

The sudden announcement caught many in the LGBTQ+ community off-guard BsWest Scottsdale in the Northeast Valley opened in 1988

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox 10 Phoenix

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – One of the oldest LGBTQ+ bars in the Northeast Valley area of metropolitan Phoenix announced on its social media accounts Tuesday that the bar will close forever this weekend on January 7.

The sudden announcement caught many in the LGBTQ+ community off-guard

BsWest Scottsdale opened in 1988, and in their Facebook post, the owners noted:

“As we approach the end of an era, we wish to extend our deepest appreciation and best wishes to those who made our journey meaningful,” read the post. “Thank you to the family of staff, show casts, partners and loyal patrons who helped us create a safe space and loving atmosphere over the years.”

The club took up two floors at its Fifth Avenue location where it hosted drag shows, trans nights and go-go dancers and became known as a safe space and go-to for the LGBTQ+ community.

BsWest Facebook

Reacting to the news, many of the club’s clientele posted comments reflecting their feelings:

Matt Peters: Thank you for the memories. This place was my go to bar in the late 90’s. So many amazing friendships. Thank you ♥️

Patrick Keown: 😞 aww BS was everything in my twenties! Thanks for so many great memories….. farewell & much love.

JR de Luna: As a patron most of those years, it’s sad to see this closing chapter. Many great memories and lifelong friendships made. Farewell BS, you will be missed ❤️

Peter J Hegarty II: Soooo very sorry to hear this news. I’ve had plenty of great times there, after coming out 14 years ago. The bartenders on up have been the best.

P Joseph Rooney: I met my husband here 😢 It’s sad to see y’all go. First bar I ever went to, too.

The bar’s Facebook post noted: Thank you family to staff, Show Casts, partners, and loyal patrons. Thank you community. The last few shows will continue through this week. Final good-bye will be Sunday Jan. 7th 2024.

Thank you all 🙏🏼❤️

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Arizona Governor issues order banning conversion therapy

Hobbs also signed an executive order to ensure the state employee health care plan covers medically-necessary gender-affirming surgery

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Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs is shown signing legislation in this file photo. (Photo Credit: Office of the Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs)

PHOENIX – Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs signing an executive order Tuesday banning the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy. With the signing of this executive order, Arizona is now the 27th state in the country to enact protections against the practice of conversion therapy.

Hobbs also signed an executive order to ensure the state employee health care plan covers medically-necessary gender-affirming surgery.

“Our LGBTQ+ community should never have to face hate and discrimination, and I will do everything in my power to fight for full equality,” said Governor Hobbs. “The State is leading by example on this issue, and we will continue working until Arizona is a place where every individual can participate equally in our economy and our workforce without fear of discrimination or exclusion.”

As outlined in the Executive Order restricting conversion therapy, State Agencies will implement policies to actively protect LGBTQ+ minors from the harmful effects of conversion therapy and ensure public funds are not spent on these dangerous practices.

The American Psychological Association found that conversion therapy contributes to increased risk of suicide, depression, and substance use throughout an individual’s life. Additionally, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has determined that conversion therapy should not be a part of any behavioral health treatment.

“Equality Arizona is excited to see Governor Hobbs take bold executive action to protect the LGBTQ+ community,” said Jeanne Woodbury, Interim Executive Director for Equality Arizona. “Protecting Arizonans from fraudulent and harmful treatment is exactly what we elect our statewide leaders to accomplish, and taking action against conversion therapy is long overdue.” 

Read the Executive Order on Ensuring Access to Medically Necessary Gender-Affirming Healthcare HERE
Read the Executive Order on Protecting Young People from Conversion Therapy HERE
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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 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 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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Arizona Legislature sends two anti-Trans bills to governor

“We’re talking about legislating bullying against children who are already struggling just to get by” one lawmaker said

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Arizona State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Arizona)

PHOENIX – The Arizona House of Representatives passed two anti-Trans bills Thursday – one prohibiting gender-affirming surgery for minors (S.B. 1138) and the other baring Trans students from participating on girl’s sports teams (S.B. 1165) – sending both to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Both pieces of legislation cleared the Senate last month, leaving the bills’ fate to Ducey, who has not signaled whether he will sign either. 

Earlier this week, two GOP governors – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox – broke from their party and vetoed anti-Trans sports bills. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ organization, urged Ducey to follow the likes of Holcomb and Cox and veto the two measures. 

Republican attacks on Trans youth, primarily targeting their healthcare and participation in sports, have continued after a record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in states. In 2022 so far, state lawmakers have proposed nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, according to an NBC News analysis

Proponents of anti-Trans sports bills argue they are necessary to keep “fairness” and “integrity” in women’s sports. Supporters of gender-affirming care bans say they will prevent children from decisions they may regret, equating the treatments to “mutilation” or “child abuse.”

During the debate on S.B. 1138, Republican Rep. John Kavanagh made similar comparisons, saying: “We should stand the same way today because this is mutilation of children. It is irreversible. It is horrific.”

However, critics pushed back against Kavanagh’s argument, saying a child’s health care should be left to parents and the decisions are not hasty ones. 

“We’re talking about our kids, who are already going to be taking the proper steps with their parents to be able to be who they are,” said Democratic Rep. Andres Cano. 

Though Republicans in several states – including Texas and Alabama – have pushed for such bans on gender-affirming care for minors, many top medical associations support the treatments for Trans and nonbinary youth. LGBTQ+ advocates call gender-affirming care “essential” and “life saving.”

S.B. 1165 brought similar partisan divides, with Republicans championing the bill’s passage. Over the last few years, Republicans have progressively pushed harder for bans on Trans women and girls playing sports — reaching a new peak with Trans University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who has set collegiate records. 

“This bill to me is all about biology,” said Republican Rep. Shawnna Bolick. “In my opinion, it’s unfair to allow biological males to compete with biological girls sports.”

Democrats accused the legislation of dehumanizing Trans youth and creating a problem that doesn’t exist in the state. 

“We’re talking about legislating bullying against children who are already struggling just to get by,” said Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler.

The HRC released a statement condemning the passage of both bills. 

“Arizonans deserve better than legislators who are seeking to bully transgender youth with politically motivated bills for the sake of discrimination itself,” said Bridget Sharpe, HRC Arizona state director. “Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials’ divisive political strategy are vulnerable kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence. We urge Gov. Ducey to do the right thing and veto these harmful bills.”

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Arizona Republican breaks from party to block anti-Trans bill

The legislation was one of Arizona’s 15 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced so far this year, the most of any state

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Arizona Republican state Senator Tyler Pace (Photo Credit: Office of Senator Tyler Pace)

PHOENIX – A bill aiming to ban gender-affirming care for LGBTQ+ youth in Arizona is effectively dead after Republican state Sen. Tyler Pace broke from his party last week and voted against the legislation. 

The rare and unexpected move came last Wednesday with Pace joining three Democratic colleagues on the Arizona Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, splitting the vote 4-4 and effectively stalling the bill. 

Though Pace saw “both sides,” he attributed his vote to the testimony of LGBTQ+ youth and their parents against the anti-Trans youth health care bill. 

“The testimonies we heard today about the many people who are using these avenues of medical treatments to save lives, to improve lives,” he said during the committee hearing, “I don’t want my vote to stop those great things.”

At the hearing, Trans youth and their families stood in front of the committee to testify against the anti-Trans bill. 

“Kids like me should be able to be who they are without lawmakers attacking their rights,” said Samuel Cars, who identifies as Trans and bisexual. “I ask you when you vote on this bill to think about me and this question: What side of history do you want to be on? Because the only way to be on the right side is vote no on this bill.”

Other people who spoke to the committee noted how the bill could increase suicide rates for Trans youth in the state. Late last year, LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention group The Trevor Project found a strong link between gender-affirming therapy and lower rates of suicide and depression in Trans youth. 

The legislation – S.B. 1138, which sought to ban gender-affirming care to Trans and nonbinary youth, including reversible puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgeries – was one of Arizona’s 15 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced so far this year, the most of any state, according to NBC News

Pro-LGBTQ+ activists and lawmakers grew so concerned over the legislative landscape that they hosted a press conference last month, sounding alarm bells over the anti-LGBTQ+ bills. 

“This is an attack on human rights,” said Arizona state Rep. César Chávez, chairman of the Arizona LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, at the 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.”

The Arizona state Senate passed an anti-Trans sports bill at the beginning of February that would restrict Trans women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. Pace voted in favor of the legislation. 

Last year, Arkansas and Tennessee passed similar gender-affirming care bans, making them the only two states in the country to do so. However, a federal judge blocked the Arkansas ban last summer, according to LGBTQ+ research nonprofit the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). 

MAP also notes that Tennessee’s law prohibits medical providers from providing hormone-related medication to “prepubertal minors.” “Best practice medical care for transgender youth only includes such medication once a youth has entered puberty, not prior to it, and this further illustrates how these legislative efforts reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of medical care for transgender youth,” it added. “However, this legislation sets a dangerous precedent for further restrictions of medical care for transgender youth.”

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Arizona lawmakers intro bill to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination

While the measure has backers in the state’s business and faith communities it faces opposition from the anti-LGBTQ+ Center for Arizona Policy

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Arizona State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: Office of the Arizona Secretary of State)

PHOENIX – Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, (R-Maricopa), flanked by a group of bipartisan lawmakers announced Monday afternoon they were introducing legislation that would for the first time protect LGBTQ+ Arizonans from discrimination by businesses, landlords and employers based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In addition to the provisions to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, the measure calls for a ban on the practise of conversion therapy by licensed health care professionals. 

While the measure has backers in the state’s business and faith communities it already faces opposition from the conservative anti-LGBTQ+ Center for Arizona Policy, (CAP) .

In 2014 the Center was defined by one journalist writing for the independent news outlet Phoenix New Times as; “In fact, the Center for Arizona Policy is a throwback to Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. It’s a juggernaut of theocracy, intent on imposing its beliefs on public policy and making Republican politicians in Arizona march in lockstep with CAP’s war on gays, women, pornography, and public education.”

Cathi Herrod, president of CAP told NBC News affiliate KPNX 12 news that the measure would “treat reasonable disagreement as if it were discrimination.”

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Arizona State Senate passes anti-Trans sports ban

The legislation would restrict transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity

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Arizona Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Arizona)

PHOENIX – The Arizona State Senate on Wednesday passed SB 1165, the so-called ‘Save Women’s Sports Act.’ The legislation would restrict transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. It passed along a party line vote of 16 Republicans to 13 Democrats with 1 abstention. The bill now heads to the House.

“We can promote both women’s sports and transgender inclusion at the same time — they are not mutually exclusive, as some politicians would have you believe,” said Casey Pick, Senior Fellow for Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “While Arizona lawmakers are devoting energy to a divisive solution in search of a problem, we know that transgender and nonbinary young people are struggling and continue to face increased risk for bullying and suicide. These ugly attacks are only making matters worse.”

The measure specifies that interscholastic sports an intramural athletics are to be defined by biological sex, one is either male or female.

A. EACH INTERSCHOLASTIC OR INTRAMURAL ATHLETIC TEAM OR SPORT THAT IS SPONSORED BY A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR A PRIVATE SCHOOL WHOSE STUDENTS OR TEAMS COMPETE AGAINST A PUBLIC SCHOOL SHALL BE EXPRESSLY DESIGNATED AS ONE OF THE FOLLOWING BASED ON THE BIOLOGICAL SEX OF THE STUDENTS WHO PARTICIPATE ON THE TEAM OR IN THE SPORT:
"MALES", "MEN" OR "BOYS".
"FEMALES", "WOMEN" OR "GIRLS".
"COED" OR "MIXED".

It also stated that “a person’s sex is determined at fertilization and revealed at birth or, increasingly, in utero.”

B. ATHLETIC TEAMS OR SPORTS DESIGNATED FOR "FEMALES", "WOMEN" OR "GIRLS" MAY NOT BE OPEN TO STUDENTS OF THE MALE SEX.

The measure defines “that biological differences between males and females are determined genetically during embryonic development.”

The legislature also states that secondary sex characteristics [which develop during puberty make anatomical differences beyond the reproductive system,] leading to adult body types that are measurably different between sexes.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health. When asked about new policies that would ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams and transgender boys from playing on boys’ sports teams, 74% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 57% felt sad, 43% felt stressed, and nearly 1 in 3 felt scared.

The measure also states:

PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MALES AND FEMALES RELEVANT TO SPORTS PERFORMANCE INCLUDE A LARGER BODY SIZE WITH MORE SKELETAL-MUSCLE MASS, A LOWER PERCENTAGE OF BODY FAT, AND GREATER MAXIMAL DELIVERY OF ANAEROBIC AND AEROBIC ENERGY.
MEN ALSO HAVE HIGHER NATURAL LEVELS OF TESTOSTERONE, WHICH AFFECTS TRAITS SUCH AS HEMOGLOBIN LEVELS, BODY FAT CONTENT, THE STORAGE AND USE OF CARBOHYDRATES, AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF TYPE MUSCLE FIBERS, ALL OF WHICH RESULT IN MEN BEING ABLE TO GENERATE HIGHER SPEED AND POWER DURING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.
THERE IS A SPORTS PERFORMANCE GAP BETWEEN MALES AND FEMALES, SUCH THAT THE PHYSIOLOGICAL ADVANTAGES CONFERRED BY BIOLOGICAL SEX APPEAR, ON ASSESSMENT OF PERFORMANCE DATA, INSURMOUNTABLE.

However, the measure seems to allow for “biologically born women to play in men’s sports.”

THIS SECTION DOES NOT RESTRICT THE ELIGIBILITY OF ANY STUDENT TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY INTERSCHOLASTIC OR INTRAMURAL ATHLETIC TEAM OR SPORT DESIGNATED AS BEING FOR "MALES", "MEN" OR "BOYS" OR DESIGNATED AS "COED" "MIXED".

However, research also shows that transgender and nonbinary youth who have access to gender-affirming spaces report lower rates of attempting suicide. A 2021 peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project’s researchers, published in Transgender Health, also found that transgender and nonbinary youth who reported gender identity acceptance from adults and peers had significantly lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year.

The Trevor Project’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) have never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

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