Assessing the Damage: Reviewing How State LGBTQ Policies Changed in 2023
The past three years have brought a dramatic — and still ongoing—escalation of attacks on LGBTQ people across virtually every aspect of our lives. Now that most states’ legislative sessions have adjourned for the year, MAP is taking a look at just how far states’ LGBTQ policies have changed so far in 2023, drawing on the more than 50 policies we track in our LGBTQ Equality Maps.
The policy areas discussed below are just a few of the many policies affecting LGBTQ people’s lives; visit our Equality Maps to learn more.
Dramatic Escalation in Anti-LGBTQ Legislation
In 2021, new records were set for the number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced and enacted into law by state legislatures. In 2022, those records were broken.
In 2023, those records were further shattered, when state legislatures introduced more than 725 anti-LGBTQ bills — with more than 75 signed into law so far. This more than doubles the numbers from just last year.
MAP’s report series, Under Fire: The War on LGBTQ People in America, connects the dots between the various political attacks that seek to undermine equality and erase LGBTQ people from public life.
Significant Backsliding in Legal Equality For Transgender People
MAP’s Equality Maps track over 50 LGBTQ-related laws and policies, assigning scores for each policy and creating rankings for each state.
Looking at MAP’s Gender Identity Policy Tally, which focuses on laws primarily affecting transgender people, at the beginning of 2023, 14 states earned a “Negative” rank, the lowest category in MAP’s rubric. By mid-year, 20 states were in the “Negative” category, illustrating the swift and dramatic impacts of this year’s legislative session. (Click the “Gender Identity” tab at this link to see the full tally.)
Put another way, at the beginning of this year, 25% of transgender people lived in “Negative” category states, but by July 24, more than one-third (34%) of transgender people live in these states.
The map on the left shows the country as of January 1, 2023, before this year’s legislative sessions. The map on the right shows states as of July 24, 2023, following the conclusion of most states’ legislative sessions.
While MAP tracked more than 725 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 2023, the majority of those specifically targeted transgender people, along with the majority of the 75+ bills that were signed into law so far this year. The stark difference is reflected in our snapshot of state-by-state LGBTQ laws for sexual orientation as compared to gender identity: only four states currently have a “Negative” rank on our Sexual Orientation Policy Tally, compared to 20 states with a “Negative” rank on our Gender Identity Tally. (Both tallies are available at this link.)
Extremist Attacks on Transgender Health Care
In 2023 alone, 18 states enacted new bans on medically necessary health care for transgender youth, and several more states may yet enact a ban this year. In total, 21 states have enacted this kind of law. At the beginning of 2023, just three states had enacted this kind of law, and prior to 2021 no bans of this kind existed.
Currently, nearly one in three (32%) transgender youth live in states that ban medical care for them.
Five states’ bans make it a felony crime to provide best practice medical care to transgender youth.
However, not all these bans are currently in effect. In fact, lawsuits have been filed against these bans in at least 12 of these states, and to date all decisions except one have been victories for transgender youth and their families.
Additional information —
Citations: Expanded details on state bans of medical care for transgender people. This includes information about what each state’s ban covers, the status of litigation challenging the laws, which are in effect, a timeline of when the laws were passed, and which governors issued a veto.
Targeting Transgender People in Bathrooms
In 2023, six states enacted new bathroom bans, including Florida’s new ban that far and away exceeds others in its extremism and scope. Florida’s ban applies to not only government buildings but also all publicly owned or leased places, ranging from major airports and convention centers to public parks, schools and colleges, and more.
Florida’s law also carries potential criminal penalties, which means that a transgender person could face jail time for using the bathroom at a university, during a sports game, while at the DMV, or even during a layover at a Florida airport.
Additionally, in 2023 four states (indicated on the map by the yellow caution icon), have enacted an entirely new type of law, defining “sex” throughout state law in ways that explicitly allow for and enable discrimination against transgender people.
While these laws are not themselves bathroom bans, they may be used to allow bathroom bans (and other discriminatory policies) moving forward.
Banning Transgender Children From Playing Sports
In 2023, six states enacted new bans on transgender people’s ability to play school sports according to their gender identity, for a total of 22 states. Two of these states (Alabama and Texas) expanded their existing K-12 bans to also apply to college, and the four other states (Wyoming, Kansas, North Dakota, and Missouri) enacted entirely new bans.
As a result, 31% of transgender youth live in states that ban them from playing school sports.
While 2023 has been a record-shattering year, including stark backsliding in legal equality for transgender people in many states across the country, there have also been important and positive developments.
For example, in response to the rapidly spreading attacks on transgender healthcare across the country, so far in 2023, 11 states and the District of Columbia took action to protect access to gender-affirming health care.
Now, a total of 14 states and D.C. have some kind of transgender healthcare “shield” laws, protecting both providers and recipients of gender-affirming care.
As some states continue their legislative sessions, MAP will continue tracking these laws and policies affecting LGBTQ people. Our Equality Maps are updated and maintained in real time and can always provide the most up-to-date picture of the policy landscape shaping LGBTQ people’s lives.
(Please note that the count of bills and the maps shown here are accurate as of July 24, 2023. Due to the nature of legislative sessions, these can change quickly. Please refer to our Equality Maps, which are updated in real-time, for up-to-date details.)