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SPLC report is a wake-up call for LGBTQ people

In its most recent report on hate groups in the U.S., the Southern Poverty Law Center documented a spike in the number of groups targeting LGBTQ people and promoting dangerous lies and misinformation, particularly about transgender people. Shockingly, the number of those groups rose from 49 in 2018 to 70 last year.

Across the country, LGBTQ advocates have become alarmed by the Trump administration’s increasingly aggressive attempts to enshrine their anti-LGBTQ bigotry in federal law. Even as our country and the world struggle in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, LGBTQ people in the U.S. must confront another brutal reality: Our own government is seeking to harm us.

The seeds of this dangerous development were apparent from the outset of Trump’s administration. One of its very first acts was to roll back protections for transgender students. Since then, the administration has set out to destroy protections for LGBTQ people in health care, federal employment, government contracts, housing and even federally funded adoption and foster care programs.

Some of these rollbacks have been particularly cruel, such as the president’s abrupt decision to ban transgender people from military service and, more recently, the decision by Housing Secretary Ben Carson to eliminate anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in homeless shelters. The administration has also permitted increasingly brutal treatment of LGBTQ asylum seekers. In particular, transgender women in have been brutalized in ICE detention facilities and have died after being assaulted or denied medical care.

This escalating pattern of attacks has put the LGBTQ movement on the defensive. The transgender military ban, for example, spurred multiple legal challenges. In March, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders filed yet another federal lawsuit challenging the ban in Boston.

Most recently, these relentless federal attacks have spilled over into the states. Anti-LGBTQ groups have mounted an aggressive campaign to promote state laws that do not simply roll back anti-discrimination protections but seek to make it impossible for transgender people to attend school, function in everyday life or obtain needed medical care.

In the past year, we have seen an unprecedented blizzard of proposed state laws that seek to prevent transgender people from correcting their gender markers on government-issued IDs, criminalize the provision of medical care to transgender youth and bar transgender children from school sports.

It is shocking to see such extreme bills being proposed, and even more so to see them enacted into law. Earlier this week, Idaho became the first state in the country to enact two such laws – one barring transgender students from sports and another preventing transgender people from obtaining state-issued identification that matches their gender. In the past year alone, legislators in more than 40 states have introduced similar bills. And earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice threw fuel on this hateful fire by endorsing discrimination against transgender student athletes in a federal court filing.

As history has shown, attempts to scapegoat vulnerable groups escalate quickly when they are embraced by government officials and codified into law. As SPLC’s report makes clear, we must recognize this administration’s growing alliance with anti-LGBTQ hate groups for what it is – the harbinger of an official campaign of persecution that must be countered now, before it becomes too late.      

Shannon Minter, a transgender man, is the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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