Anti-LGBTQ+ laws put U.S. in a state of emergency, Human Rights Campaign says

A drag artist raises a fist at a lectern surrounded by people with signs and pride flags
Drag artist Vidalia Anne Gentry speaks during a February news conference held by the Human Rights Campaign in Nashville to draw attention to anti-drag bills in the Tennessee Legislature.
(John Amis / Associated Press)

For the first time in its history, the largest LGBTQ+ rights organization in the U.S. has declared a state of emergency for the country’s LGBTQ+ people.

Statehouses across the U.S. have increasingly introduced bills and passed laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community, creating an imminent threat to health and safety, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which was founded in 1980.

At least 525 bills that the HRC characterized as anti-LGBTQ+ have been introduced across 41 state legislatures during this legislative session, and 76 have been signed into law — more than double the record reached last year, according to the organization. More than 220 of the introduced bills targeted the transgender community, the group found.


The volume of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation “is record-shattering,” said Cathryn Oakley, the HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel.

“It is a really scary time for LGBTQ people, and I am not certain everyone understands quite how scary it really is,” Oakley said.

Outside Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, parents protesting a Pride Day assembly clashed with police and counterprotesters supporting LGBTQ+ rights and education.

June 2, 2023

Republican-controlled state governments including those in Texas, Florida and Tennessee are at the forefront of the movement against LGBTQ+ rights, the HRC said, calling out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in particular for “criss-crossing the country to attack our community.”

“The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived — they are real, tangible and dangerous,” said Kelley Robinson, the HRC president. “In many cases they are resulting in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states, and triggering a tidal wave of increased homophobia and transphobia that puts the safety of each and every one of us at risk.”

Alongside the national warning, which coincides with Pride Month, the HRC released a digital guidebook of health and safety resources, a summary of state-by-state laws, and “know your rights” information for LGBTQ+ travelers and residents in hostile states.


Last month, the HRC joined other civil rights organizations in issuing a travel advisory for Florida, warning that recent legislation and policies such as the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, may pose risks to marginalized groups.

Drag queens are more mainstream than ever, as are LGBTQ rights. Yet, story hours, where drag queens read to kids, have become a point of controversy and even violence.

Feb. 22, 2023

The number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures climbed from 115 in 2015 to more than 500 in 2023, according to the HRC report. Many of the laws passed this year, more than 22%, were bans on gender-affirming care; others were largely anti-trans restrictions on bathroom and facilities use, anti-trans sports bans, constraints on drag performance, and prohibition of pronoun use.

Recently, bills have started to focus on transgender and nonbinary youth, the HRC said, targeting bathroom use, sports participation and healthcare.

Framing such moves, including anti-trans bathroom restrictions and attempts to shut down public drag events, as protecting children has been a through line for opponents of LGBTQ+ rights, whose campaigns are rooted in the idea that if “LGBTQ people are acknowledged, if we are respected, that is inherently obscene because LGBTQ people are inherently obscene,” Oakley said.

“It is absolutely the case that the energy put behind this movement to harm LGBTQ people via state legislatures, that energy is renewed and alarming and in many ways truly a threat to our democracy,” Oakley said. “It is also born of the exact same vintage homophobia and transphobia that we have been fighting back against forever.”

Despite an ongoing culture war, L.A.’s thriving drag scene is bursting with queens, kings, things and rebellious spirit.

June 6, 2023

The wave of legislation does not mirror an overwhelming shift toward anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the HRC said, noting that majorities of Americans in every state support measures to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Instead, according to the HRC, the bills are the result of “a coordinated, top-down moral panic, driven by a few well-funded and well-connected organizations,” with many using boilerplate language from proposals by a coalition of groups including the Heritage Foundation, Family Policy Alliance and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

In Los Angeles, a North Hollywood elementary school recently became the center of civil strife after a protest against a Pride Day assembly erupted into a fight between demonstrators. The brawl brought to a head weeks of turmoil that began with a transgender teacher’s LGBTQ+ Pride flag burned on school grounds.

More than 100 parents rallied against the assembly at Saticoy Elementary School, holding signs that included “No pride in grooming” and saying they opposed teaching about LGBTQ+ people to elementary school children. About 100 parents and other advocates showed up in support of the LGBTQ+ community.