NASHVILLE (BP) – More state legislatures have enacted laws this year to protect minors and women, as well as to ensure competitive fairness in sports, in response to the transgender rights movement.
So far in 2023, the legislative effort to address issues regarding particularly children and young people who identity as a gender other than their biological sex include, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP):
- 17 new states have passed laws that prohibit gender-reassignment surgery and hormonal treatment. In all, 20 states have enacted such laws since 2021.
- Six states have enacted bans on the transgender use of restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities, bringing the total of states with such laws to nine the last three years.
- Four new states have approved laws that bar young people from competing in sports according to their gender identity instead of their biological sex at birth. A total of 22 states have approved such laws since 2020.
MAP describes itself as a think tank that conducts research to help hasten equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.
The Southern Baptist Convention has addressed transgenderism at its annual meeting in at least three resolutions during the last decade.
In June, messengers overwhelmingly approved a resolution in opposition to “‘gender-affirming care’ and all forms of ‘gender transition’ interventions.” They also urged legislatures to rescind any policy that endorses such procedures, “undermines parental rights, or creates supposed sanctuary jurisdictions that facilitate these harmful interventions for minors.”
The resolution praised legislatures that have acted to protect minors from gender transitions, to defend parental rights and to safeguard the freedom of conscience of religious adherents who refuse to support “gender ideology.”
In addition, messengers extended “the love of Christ, who can save anyone who would call on His name,” and “compassionate care and tender mercy” to people experiencing gender confusion or those who are receiving or have received “’gender transition’ interventions.”
The SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has called for public policies that reflect the view of the Bible endorsed by convention resolutions that God has created each person as either male or female.
“Our culture has radically turned away from the foundational biblical views of gender and sexuality, and the repercussions are devastating,” said Hannah Daniel, the ERLC’s policy manager. “Children should never be subjected to social experimentation, and leaders from across the partisan spectrum should join together to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
The ERLC, Daniel told Baptist Press in written comments, “will continue to advocate against harmful gender-transition practices and affirm the fundamental rights of parents in decision-making regarding their children at both a state and national level.”
The new states that have banned gender-transition surgery and hormonal treatment for minors in 2023 are Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. They joined Arkansas (2021) and Alabama (2022) in such prohibitions. Arizona enacted a ban on just gender-transition surgery in 2022.
Six of these laws are not being enforced while lawsuits against them proceed, and others have been challenged in court, according to MAP.
Advocates for such bans gained a victory in a federal appeals court July 8. A divided, three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati issued an opinion permitting Tennessee to enforce its law temporarily. A federal judge had blocked enforcement of the ban regarding hormonal treatments and puberty blockers but not surgeries.
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB), told BP he was “pleasantly surprised” the Sixth Circuit Court “upheld what we believe is a common-sense and compassionate law that respects the biblical design for personhood.”
Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s meeting in November 2022 passed a resolution opposing “cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers, or elective sex-altering surgeries” for children. The resolution also called for people who struggle with gender confusion to be met by churches with “love, compassion, prayer, truth, and Gospel witness.”
The church, Davis said, should take any opportunity it can to “speak compassionately into the culture” regarding an issue the Bible is clear on – “especially when there is so much confusion out there about gender identity.”
A pastor for more than three decades before becoming TBMB’s executive director, Davis told BP in a phone interview he would want young people experiencing gender confusion “to know that they’re loved very much by the God who designed them to be male and female and that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives.”
“I would want to speak compassionately to parents to encourage them to parent and to do what’s good for their child health-wise,” he said. “And we do not believe that altering a gender through medicine or surgery is a good way to approach adolescents.”
LGBTQ rights advocates and some medical organizations have criticized the state bans. In June, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates approved a resolution reaffirming its opposition to penalties against people seeking “gender affirming care” or health-care professionals providing it.
The states that have enacted bans this year on the cross-gender use of restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities are Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky and North Dakota, MAP reported. Alabama and Oklahoma had passed such laws in 2022. Tennessee had done so in 2021. Most of the laws apply to elementary and secondary schools, but two apply to either colleges or at least some government buildings.
Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota and Wyoming are the new states to approve laws in 2023 that bar young people from competing in sports according to their gender identity instead of their biological sex.
The other states that have enacted such bans since 2020 are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Courts have blocked enforcement of part or all of four of the laws, according to MAP. Sixteen of the bans apply to kindergarten through college, but others affect only some levels of education, MAP reported.
The 2023 legislative sessions of nine states have yet to conclude, and two states have special sessions still in effect.