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More Than 40 Anti-Trans and Anti-LGBTQ+ Policy Riders Defeated in Spending Bill

Many anti-LGBTQ+ Republicans reacted negatively to the bill, which must pass by Friday night to avert a shutdown.

The moon sets behind the U.S. Capitol dome on February 25, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, Congress unveiled the much-anticipated spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The bill, which includes funding for major government departments such as Health and Human Services and Education, featured fierce negotiations over conservative “policy riders.” These policy riders included bans on coverage for gender-affirming care, DEI bans, sports bans, and more. Despite some indications that Democrats might compromise due to the sheer number of conservative policy riders, it appears those fears did not come to fruition. Democrats held firm in negotiations, and the most impactful anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ riders were nowhere to be found.

One policy rider proposed for the Food and Drug Administration would have defunded any hospital that “distributes, sells, or otherwise uses drugs that disrupt the onset of puberty or sexual development for those under 18,” a measure targeting not only transgender youth but also those experiencing precocious puberty. Another rider sought to bar any government funding toward “surgical procedures or hormone therapy for the purposes of gender-affirming care” in the Department of Health and Human Services. This move would have significantly impacted private and subsidized insurance in the Healthcare Marketplace. It also aimed to bar the enforcement of President Biden’s executive order titled “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity,” which broadened anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals. Additional riders included bans on funding for any organization that “promotes transgenderism,” Title IX protections for transgender youth, bans on legal challenges against states over anti-LGBTQ+ laws, book bans, DEI bans, and more. In total, over 40 riders were proposed and negotiated in the spending bills. None of these were found in the final bill.

Ultimately, the final spending bill released contained only a single anti-LGBTQ+ rider: a ban on pride flags being raised or displayed above foreign embassies. The policy, while certainly qualifying as anti-LGBTQ+ and a regression to Trump-era policies, notably does not bar personal displays of Pride flags by embassy workers. In the past, some embassies have gotten around such bans by not “flying a flag over the embassy” but rather, painting portions of the embassy in rainbow colors or draping flags on the side of buildings.

News of the defeat of the most impactful anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ riders comes after a significant push from Equality Caucus Democrats and the Biden Administration against the riders. “As you negotiate government funding for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24), we write to strongly urge you to reject any attempts to include anti-LGBTQI+ provisions in any final FY24 funding agreement,” said a letter signed by 163 representatives on behalf of the Congressional Equality Caucus to the Biden Administration.

However, Republicans also pushed hard for their inclusion. In a shutdown threat issued February 21st from the House Freedom Caucus, Republicans indicated that bans on gender affirming care and transgender participation in sports were necessary to prevent a potential shutdown. Previously, Representative Dan Crenshaw stated that such bans are the “hill we will die on.” In a report published by Axios, one Republican lawmaker stated, “People are predicting a shutdown even if it’s just for a few days.” Others concurred, citing gender affirming care riders as one of the potential reasons for such a shutdown.

Many anti-LGBTQ+ leaders in the Republican Party reacted negatively to the bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz expressed anger at funding for the New Jersey Garden State Equality in Education Fund, calling it “force feeding the LGBT agenda in schools” and stating that it enables “gender mutilation surgeries in minors,” “biological men” in women’s bathrooms, and transgender participation in sports. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene decried the lack of a DEI ban. Rep. Andrew Clyde stated that Republicans “surrendered” to Democrats on hormone therapy. The House Freedom Caucus published a lengthy list of healthcare and equality centers that the budget would fund, urging the GOP to vote “no” and to shut down the government.

In a press release published by House Appropriations Democrats, they stated that the bill rejected over a hundred poison-pill riders, many of which targeted LGBTQ+ people. For example, the Labor-HHS-Education portion of the bill blocked provisions around gender affirming care, sports bans, and nondiscrimination.

See the House Appropriations Democrats statement:

Press release, House Appropriations Democrats on Labor-HHS-Education
Press release, House Appropriations Democrats on Labor-HHS-Education.

The bill must pass by Friday evening to avert a government shutdown, though the impacts of such a shutdown would likely not be felt until Monday. If passed, the bill would keep the government funded through September, at which point all of the riders could resurface during the peak of the 2024 presidential election. However, for the next several months, LGBTQ+ riders will not pose a significant threat in a year where transgender and queer individuals have faced attacks at historic levels.

This piece was republished with permission from Erin In The Morning.

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