Threats to transgender Americans are real. It’s time to update federal civil rights laws

Those who experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity cannot count on civil rights protections and have become the target of conservative lawmakers.

SHARE Threats to transgender Americans are real. It’s time to update federal civil rights laws
LGBTQ leaders speak

Adri Perez, ACLU of Texas Policy and Advocacy Strategist, center, and other LGBTQ leaders speak on Wednesday outside the Travis County courthouse in Austin, Texas, where a hearing was held to stop the newly mandated cruel and unconstitutional child welfare investigations targeting supportive families of transgender children.

Erich Schlegel/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign

The onslaught of laws in red states that target transgender Americans and their families should add mounting pressure for the U.S. Senate to vote and approve on an expansion to federal civil rights laws through The Equality Act.

Americans are granted protections through federal civil rights laws against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability or religion. But those who experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity cannot count on those protections and have become the target of conservative lawmakers.

Editorials bug

Editorials

Florida’s House of Representatives in February passed the Parental Right in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, that prohibits teachers and school staff from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity.

And, perhaps the most alarming attack on LGBTQ youths and families, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state child welfare officials last month to investigate families where a child is receiving gender-affirming services. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton followed with a legally nonbinding opinion claiming that parents who provide those services to their children could be investigated for child abuse.

“This is government overreach at its worst,” President Joe Biden said on Wednesday. “Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points. These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”

Whether Abbott’s order was meant to score political points during an election year or not, the state’s child protection agency is taking his legislation seriously.

Among the first to be investigated was an employee of the state protective services agency who works on the review of reports of abuse and neglect, and also happens to have a 16-year-old transgender child. The mother was placed on administrative leave and was visited by an investigator from the agency asking for the child’s medical records.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Lambda Legal went to state court to stop the inquiry and a state judge blocked Texas’ child protection agency from investigating the following day.

“We are terrified for Mary’s health and well-being, and for our family,” the mother said in a declaration filed with the suit. “I feel betrayed by my state and the agency for whom I work. … Not providing Mary with the medically necessary health care that she needs is not an option for us.”

The harm transgender children and their families are experiencing is frightening and it is real. For the protection of all Americans, The Equality Act must become the new and fair reality we all live under.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

The Latest
The MitraClip story can be viewed as a cautionary tale about the science, business and regulation of medical devices.
She feels unwanted because the family won’t arrange for her to stay at the house or nearby.
McClain, a longtime confidant of Madigan, is set to go on trial with him Oct. 8 on racketeering, bribery, fraud and attempted extortion charges, but his lawyers argue that Madigan’s apparent defense strategy involved blaming McClain.