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Looking back at LGBTQ-related bills introduced in this year's legislative session

Over 30 bills that would affect the LGBTQ community were introduced in the state Legislature this session. But few of them passed, and none have been signed into law by Gov. Katie Hobbs.

“There are, to date, in 2023, over 500 anti LGBTQ bills that have been introduced nationwide,” said Andi Young, the co-chair of GLSEN Arizona’s board of directors. “Almost 300 of those are anti trans. And that’s at both the national and state level across the country.”

Young said an unaccepting atmosphere at school leads to more absences and increased dropout rates among LGBTQ students. According to Young, those trends are encouraged by bills like SB 1001, which would have restricted the use of preferred pronouns in schools.

“When students are misgendered, they feel invalidated and unseen, right, which just leads to more of that psychological distress, distress and adverse mental outcomes,” Young said.

That same bill, Young said, puts some students in a difficult — or sometimes even dangerous — position.

“I agree with wanting to know as much as I can about what's going on with my child,” Young said. “But the fact is — we would love to believe that all parents are loving and supportive, but it's simply not true.”

In a letter explaining her veto of SB 1001, the governor said any similar measures would meet the same fate. But Young said it’s not enough.

“Just because we have that protection with Governor Hobbs right now does not mean that we always will,” she said.

Gaelle Esposito, a lobbyist and advocate for LGBTQ issues, said the four anti-drag bills that inspired a demonstration at the state Capitol are an example of that.

She said one side of the conversation looks more like a “campaign of terror,” meant to target the queer community and its allies.

“It is to make business owners afraid of supporting them publicly,” Esposito said. “It is an attempt to shove us back into the closet by force if necessary. And that is what these bills are about.”

Esposito pointed to one example from February.

“We saw Brick Road Coffee in Tempe as a prime example of this,” she said. “They were hosting a drag story hour, a very innocuous event where someone’s reading children’s books. And they had a bomb threat.”

But those who make threats are at least not the majority, Esposito said.

“For the most part,” Esposito said, “voters agree they don’t want to see that kind of discrimination.”

In addition to this, Young said there is concern about conversations happening at the national level.

“There's speculation that there's some nationwide conservative groups that are driving this effort,” Young said. “Here in Arizona I know the Alliance Defending Freedom is a big group that is backing legislation such as this.”

Esposito called the ADF a hate group.

“They have a partnership in passing some of the most horrifying laws that we see, not just in the states, but in other nations,” Esposito said.

Laws like the one enacted in Uganda this May that criminalizes “aggravated homosexuality.” But Esposito said the ADF’s influence is closer to home than some might think.

“The ADF is headquartered right here,” she said. “In Scottsdale, Arizona.”

Even if bills that would harm the LGBTQ community don’t become Arizona law, Casey Clowes with Progress Arizona said that for some lawmakers, they still serve a purpose.

“They know that this will not be signed into law,” Clowes said, “but they are rallying a dangerous base of right wing activists and fueling rampant homophobia and transphobia in Arizona.”

Clowes said it wasn’t always this way.

One bill introduced this session would have put a prohibition on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for minors. While it didn’t pass, Clowes noted that “a similar bill has been introduced multiple times, previously with Republican cosponsors.”

Clowes said a shift toward extremism and focus on rallying an engaged voting base has changed things in recent years.

“Republicans are refusing to assign these bills to committees,” Clowes said. “They never get a hearing. They never get a vote, and so they don't move forward.”

Hobbs signed an executive order to severely restrict the discredited practice in Arizona. Even so, Clowes said it’s a terrifying time to be an Arizonan who isn’t "straight" or cisgender.

“We're in a precarious place where one election is determining the future for the LGBTQ community in our state,” she said.

Esposito said the queer community and its allies have hope, despite the hurdles they face.

“We are still going to find ways to move forward even in the face of this fear and this violent intimidation,” Esposito said. “We will be here whether they like it or not.”

Bills to support the LGBTQ community:*

None of these bills passed through the Legislature this session.

  • HB2068 - team designations, biological sex, would repeal section 15-120.02 AZ Revised Statutes
  • HB2140 - feminine hygiene products in schools (6-12)
  • HB2189 - ‘textbook ban for anti-LGBQ books’
  • HB2351 - conversion therapy; prohibition; minors
  • HB2222 - ‘state may work with a charitable org for the purposes of funding homeless IDs, clarified feeds (words > numbers)’
  • HB2648 - school districts; policies; bullying; definition
  • HB2681 - child care assistance; eligibility; appropriation
  • HB2739 - anti discrimination; public accommodations; employment; housing
  • HCR2014 - same-sex marriage; constitutional right; ‘creates ballot initiative, same sex marriage as constitutional right’
  • SB1128 - death certificates; gender
  • SB1543 - ‘Athlete Ban repeal’
  • SB1675 - menstrual products 6-12 in girls and gender neutral

Bills that are not supportive of the LGBTQ community:*

Bills in bold passed the Legislature but were vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs.

  • HB2517 - government documents; sex identification; ID only M/F
  • HB2711 - student information; parental notification; requirements; ‘forced outing’
  • SB1001 - pronouns; biological sex; school policies
  • SB1040 - ‘bathroom, allows trans people to use single stalls + have accommodations made but not use bathroom of gender’
  • SB1026 - state monies; drag shows; minors
  • SB1028 - adult cabaret performances; prohibited locations; drag
  • SB1030 - ‘drag is adult content, includes all trans performers’
  • SB1698 - drag, unlawful exposure; minors; sentencing; reporting
  • SB1323 - schools; sexually explicit materials; classification; class 5 felony, only adds felony punishment to existing law
  • SB1417 - disabilities, diaper changes, can request same biological sex
  • SB1503 - Internet; verification; harmful to minors
  • SB1694 - public monies, no DEI, affirmative action
  • SB1700 - pronouns and trans people in books, grooming
  • SB1146 - public funds, non-investment in groups that promote abortions for minors, no ‘sexually explicit’ material 1-12
  • SB1696 - sexually explicit materials; government; prohibition
  • SB1702 - HCB - 18, adds hormones, irreversible; permanent language change

*Compiled in part using State Legislation list by Equality Federation. All bills can be viewed by searching azleg.gov.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to a transcription error, the story has been updated to correct a quote from Casey Clowes. 

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Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.