We speak with Chase Strangio of the ACLU about recent anti-LGBTQ measures in Florida, Texas and Idaho, and pending bills in other states. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” education bill aims to ban the mere discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools. A bill in Idaho criminalizes gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children and teens. Meanwhile, welfare officials in Texas have begun to carry out Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s directive to launch child abuse investigations against parents who seek gender-affirming care for their transgender children. “What we’re seeing is a national, well-funded effort to attack and eradicate trans youth and trans lives specifically,” says Strangio, who is also an attorney in the ACLU’s lawsuit against Abbott.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman with Juan González. The Florida Senate voted Tuesday to ban the discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools. The legislation known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has faced mounting criticism from Democrats, rights advocates, many students and educators. Meanwhile the Idaho State House has passed a bill that would criminalize gender-affirming healthcare for trans children and teens. The bill makes it a felony punishable with life in prison for a doctor who provides gender-affirming care including surgeries and hormone treatments. It would also make it a felony to take trans youth out of the state to receive that care elsewhere. This all comes as a fight escalates in Texas over a directive by the Republican Governor Greg Abbott that orders state welfare officials to launch child abuse investigations against parents who seek gender-affirming care for their trans children. We go now to Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. The ACLU is part of a lawsuit to block the Texas directive. Chase, let’s start with Florida and what happened there.
CHASE STRANGIO: Thanks, Amy, and good morning. Starting specifically with Florida, we now have the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that heads to Governor DeSantis’ desk. He has indicated his support for the bill. I want to make two just quick points about this piece of legislation as it relates to the legislation and the national context. First, we’re hearing a lot from supporters about how this is really targeting young children in classrooms, with an explicit prohibition in the K through three context. But as a parent of a fourth-grader, what are families like mine supposed to do? What are kids like mine supposed to do? Those are grades where people are urged to talk about their families, so what this does is it erases the possibility that young people can speak about their own lives, their own truth. That connects to this larger national context where what we’re seeing is a national well-funded effort to attack and eradicate trans youth and trans lives specifically. And that is not an effect of what we are seeing; that is the intention.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Can you talk a bit more about the context in which this and other bills are being advanced by Republican lawmakers, especially in Florida where DeSantis clearly is a potential presidential candidate?
CHASE STRANGIO: I think what we are seeing nationally is an effort to leverage and weaponize misinformation particularly about trans people to mobilize a political base in the lead-up to 2022 and 2024. This is happening in state houses across the country that are deeply gerrymandered, that have shifted incredibly far to the right as a result in large part of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 to gut the Voting Rights Act with the Shelby County versus Holder decision. So we can’t understand this national context without understanding the voter suppression that is happening, without understanding the efforts to restrict access to reproductive healthcare. There is a dynamic process that is mobilizing state control over people’s bodies through voter suppression structures in order to make it harder for people to survive in the lead-up to major national elections in 2022, the midterms, and then in 2024 with the presidential election. That is what we’re seeing from GOP leadership not just in Florida but also in places like South Dakota and Texas as well.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Chase, you’re an attorney in the case of Doe versus Abbott in Texas. Can you describe that case and what has happened so far?
CHASE STRANGIO: We really have to understand that there is an absolute crisis in Texas. Families are being terrorized by Governor Abbott’s completely extralegal and impermissible directive to the child welfare agency to start investigating families and threatening the general public with criminal prosecution if they do not report trans youth and their families to the child welfare agencies. Right now on the ground, we know that families are being investigated solely because they have transgender children. Teachers are being asked to report transgender children and their families to child welfare authorities and providers have cut off healthcare across the state. So the practical impact is catastrophic, and people are suffering. We filed a lawsuit to try to block this directive. We are currently in state court in Austin to try to stop the implementation of this directive at every level and that litigation continues. But the reality is that this national conversation and the actions by the Alabama legislature, Florida Legislature, and executive officials in Texas is having the effect of making it difficult if not impossible for trans young people to survive.
AMY GOODMAN: Texas, Chase. Are they threatening to take trans children away from their parents?
CHASE STRANGIO: They are threatening to take trans children away from their parents for the sole and exclusive purpose that their parents are loving and supporting them and providing them with medically necessary doctor-recommended healthcare. I cannot stress this enough. They are coming into homes, investigating families solely because parents love their kids and are providing care consistent with the recommendations of every major medical association in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of what happened on Friday, the Houston-based Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the country announcing it is stopping prescribing gender-affirming hormone therapies?
CHASE STRANGIO: They have cut off care, canceled appointments. And we’re talking about lifesaving necessary care, so we have young people who are relying on this care to stabilize their health and well-being. A lot of this care is time-specific, so they’re pulling young people off of care that’s going to force them into their endogenous puberty. The extent of the fear and trauma is unimaginable right now and there’s very little recourse for many people. So we are fighting with everything we have to stop not only the implementation of these directives, but the fallout from them. Because it is not just these large hospitals, but individual providers, because of fear of criminal prosecution if they continue to follow their ethical obligation as doctors to treat their patients.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We only have about a minute left, but I’m wondering if you can talk about some of the legislation occurring in other states, for instance in Idaho, Iowa or Utah?
CHASE STRANGIO: I just want to highlight briefly that both Idaho and Alabama currently have felony bans on healthcare pending. If those bills pass—in Alabama, there’s one vote left in the House. In Idaho, it has to make it to the Senate. These are bills that also would be similarly catastrophic for trans people and we already have such a bill that thankfully we enjoined in Arkansas but our litigation continues there, and of course there are dozens of bills across the country still pending.
AMY GOODMAN: Specifically in Idaho, what you’re most concerned about happening there?
CHASE STRANGIO: I am concerned that this bill passes and all care is cut off. And not only is it cut off, that bill would make it a felony with potential life imprisonment not only to treat people in-state, but you take someone out of state to get the treatment. What are families supposed to do? As a parent, I simply cannot imagine what it must feel like to face criminal prosecution to try to keep your kid alive.
AMY GOODMAN: How many bills like this have been introduced around the country, Chase?
CHASE STRANGIO: We are facing a context now where over 35 states have introduced bills targeting transgender young people. Thankfully, we are able to stop some of them, but we are continuing to fight to the very end of these legislative sessions because there is an aggressive push to move these quickly through state legislatures.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to get into the details of these, so we’re going to do part two of our discussion with you right now. Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. That does it for our show. Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for a Human Resources Manager. Learn more and apply at Democracynow.org. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, Maria Taracena. I’m Amy Goodman with Juan González. Stay safe.