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LGBTQ+ ‘State of Emergency’ Declared In Mississippi, Nationwide: ‘We’re Endangered’

Several people stand in front of the Mississippi Capitol Building holding signs such as "Protect Trans Youth" and "No to HB 1125"
The Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign declared a national “State of Emergency” for LGBTQ+ Americans on June 6, 2023, citing a raft of anti-LGBTQ bills that state legislatures have passed nationwide. Seen here, LGBTQ+ rights supporters protest against The REAP Act, a ban on care for transgender youth that the Mississippi Legislature passed in February 2023. HRC-Mississippi Executive Director Rob Hill, seen here left of center, told the Mississippi Free Press on June 6, 2023, that the declaration “should send a message to our allies that now is not a time to be quiet.” Photo by Kayode Crown

“LGBTQ+ Americans are under attack” and “living in a state of emergency,” the nation’s largest pro-LGBTQ+ political lobbying organization said in a statement this morning. The dire declaration comes after states around the country, including Mississippi, passed dozens of bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this: For the first time in HRC’s nearly half-century history, we’re declaring a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson says in the introduction of a new report the organization published today. “During this legislative session, there have been over 525 state bills introduced that attack the LGBTQ+ community (nationwide), and over 220 of those target the transgender community. As of press time, more than 70 of those have become law.”

Snapshot of Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills Introduced By Year
The number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide has soared in recent years. Chart by Human Rights Campaign

In February, the Mississippi Legislature passed and Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law banning gender-affirming care for young transgender Mississippians, including basic treatments such as hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers. The law also banned gender-affirming surgeries, even though such surgeries are exceedingly rare for people under 18 and none occur in Mississippi. The governor said his goal was to protect underage children. Last week, Mississippi Today’s Molly Minta reported that the University of Mississippi Medical Center is closing its LGBTQ+ clinic, which came under scrutiny from lawmakers because it offered hormone therapy and puberty blockers to minors.

“This year, we have seen a record onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation (nationwide),” Human Rights Campaign-Mississippi Director Rob Hill told the Mississippi Free Press this morning. “Of course, we killed a whole lot of other bills, thankfully, but I think a lot of LGBTQ+ people are feeling scared right now. Frankly, they’ve become the targets of Republicans around the country and Mississippi’s no exception.”

“Here in Mississippi this year, the Republican-led Legislature and a few independents voted for the gender-affirming care ban for trans youth,” he continued.  “So that was obviously all part of an effort to fend off primary and general election challengers by pandering to fear and bigotry all at the expense and to the detriment of trans youth in Mississippi.” (One Democrat, House Rep. Tom Miles of Forest, Miss., also voted for the bill, known as the REAP Act).

Anti-LGBTQ+ Furor ‘Didn’t Happen Organically’

Rob Hill said the state-level Human Rights Campaign tracked dozens of bills that lawmakers introduced during the 2023 legislative session, but none of the others passed.

“There were 31 bills introduced in Mississippi that specifically targeted the LGBTQ+ community—book ban bills, don’t say gay bills. The good news is in Mississippi we killed 30 of those 31,” he said. “But the one that passed is horrible and is going to have a terrible impact on trans youth and their families who desperately need care.

“We know that gender-affirming care saves lives. Youth, especially tans youth, are disproportionately more likely to attempt suicide and succeed at that. So bills like this in Mississippi and around the country, even if they don’t pass, them being introduced has an impact on folks.”

LGBTQ+ AMERICANS UNDER ATTACK: A REPORT AND REFLECTION ON THE 2023 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSIONHRC’s national report says that the “intense targeting of the LGBTQ+ community in state legislatures didn’t happen organically.”

“Powerful national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations are coordinating a multi-pronged attack to push LGBTQ+ people back into the shadows,” the report says. “Three organizations, in particular—Family Policy Alliance, Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom—are leading the charge.”

The report says that those groups “created a new coalition in 2021 called ‘Promise to America’s Children’” that “convenes anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers, gives them model legislation to introduce in their state, and testifies on behalf of bad bills.” On its website, the coalition says its goal is “to protect children’s minds, bodies, and relationships with their parents.” The Mississippi Free Press has asked the organization for an interview.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an Arizona-based Christian-right legal organization that successfully crafted the Mississippi abortion ban at the center of last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case at the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s conservative majority used the case to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending abortion access in dozens of states like Mississippi. The group, which has ties to Christian dominionism, admitted in 2018 that they wrote the law and sent it to state lawmakers as part of a “strategic” plan to “eradicate Roe.”

ADF has long sought to influence Mississippi lawmakers. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned bans on same-sex marriage in 2015, the group helped then-Gov. Phil Bryant and Mississippi lawmakers craft House Bill 1523. That law granted individuals, religious organizations and businesses the right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people based on “a religious belief or moral conviction” that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman” and that gender is “immutable” and  “objectively determined by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”

The organization also laid the groundwork for a 2021 law the Mississippi Legislature passed and Gov. Reeves signed banning transgender students from playing on sports teams that match their gender identities. Lawmakers at the time said their goal was to ensure “fairness” in girls’ and women’s sports. That law passed with mostly Republican votes, but a handful of Democrats joined them.

‘A Last Stand Mentality’

Other out-of-state organizations have advanced anti-LGBTQ+ efforts in Mississippi in recent years, too. In 2022, the Mississippi Free Press’ Nick Judin broke the news that a Massachusetts-based anti-LGBTQ+ organization called MassResistance was behind an effort to ban LGBTQ+ materials from the local library in Ridgeland, Miss.

Around the nation, similar outside organizations have urged officials to ban books about LGBTQ+ and racism while often posing as concerned local parents.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson
“For the first time in HRC’s nearly half-century history, we’re declaring a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson, pictured, said in a statement on June 6, 2023. Courtesy Human Rights Campaign

HRC’s report also notes that Moms For Liberty, an organization founded in Florida in 2021 in opposition to school policies designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, has become a leader in anti-LGBTQ+ efforts.

“Within only a few months, their campaigns broadened to also focus on how racism and LGBTQ+ issues were discussed in schools, with a direct push to have curriculum restricted and numerous books banned. Their messaging often centers around ‘parental rights’ while only promoting rights aligned with other anti-LGBTQ+ conservative groups.”

“White Evangelical Christians are shrinking as a voting bloc, while the number of Americans who support LGBTQ+ people continues to rapidly grow,” the report says. “The pace at which LGBTQ+ equality has advanced has created a ‘last stand mentality’ among some white Christian conservatives who are determined to re-establish their vision of a white Christian America by any means necessary.”


Rob Hill told the Mississippi Free Press this morning that HRC’s state of emergency declaration “should send a message certainly to the legislators who are introducing these laws and the statewide leaders who support them and sign them into law that we are endangered because of these bills.”

“And it should send a message to our allies that now is not a time to be quiet. Now is a time for allies to speak out and speak up for LGBTQ+ family members and friends and co-workers,” he continued. “Allies ask me, ‘What can I do? And I say, ‘Be an ally, whether it be at work, at church or at the grocery store.’ Anywhere you hear anti-LGBTQ rhetoric or jokes, speak out and say it’s wrong and that LGBTQ+ people deserve to be treated better just like everyone else.”

Along with the report, the Human Rights Campaign released a “Guidebook For Action” with information on how people can respond to anti-LGBTQ+ efforts in their states.

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