Skip to content

In 2021, more than 250 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills were introduced by lawmakers in the US, making it the worst year in recent history for this type of legislation. Just two years later, this number more than doubled, with 2023 setting a new record for bills targeting the LGBTQIA+ community at more than 500. From drag bans to restrictions on transgender people’s participation in sport, politicians pursued a number of different avenues when it came to rolling back LGBTQIA+ rights, all to varying levels of success. Here, GAY TIMES takes a closer look at the legislation that was introduced last year and the impact it had on the community. 

How many of the anti-LGBTQIA+ bills introduced actually became law?

There were a record number of legislative efforts targeting the LGBTQIA+ community in the US last year. More than 500 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills were introduced, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Approximately 84 of these became law, ABC News reported, which works out to roughly 16.5 per cent overall.

Drag bans were pushed by lawmakers throughout the year

At least 16 states introduced bills seeking to restrict drag last year, with six ultimately making them law. Of the anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation introduced, drag bans have so far proven themselves to be the least likely to hold up to scrutiny in courts. Bills in Tennessee and Texas were struck down entirely, while those in Arkansas and North Dakota were watered down so much that lawmakers decided they were no longer worth pursuing. 

In Florida, where the Supreme Court recently ruled that the state cannot enforce its anti-drag law, many bars and performers had already started adapting to the looming legislation. AJ Prasaguet, General Manager at Palace, one of Miami’s most beloved LGBTQIA+ venues, said the venue had done so to ensure its staff and customers were as unaffected as possible if the bill’s restrictions were implemented. “For the last year, we’ve been 18 and over, we’ve had all of our ladies cover up a little bit more, but still being able to express who they are and having a great time,” he told GAY TIMES in April during Miami Beach Pride. “Drag queens have been at the heart of everything from the ‘70s and the ‘80s, and trans folks as well, that really have helped us mould what we’ve had such a great pleasure of having for the last 15 years and now, all of a sudden, it’s almost like a role reversal to go the opposite direction. So, we’re going to continue staying strong and doing our thing, and the show will continue to go on.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by GAY TIMES (@gaytimes)

Access to gender-affirming care became more limited in 2023

More than 20 states had introduced bans on gender-affirming care by the end of November 2023, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). Defined by the World Health Organization as medical interventions “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity,” gender-affirming care can take many different forms. These include – but are not limited to – counselling, hormone therapy, puberty blockers and surgical procedures. Many of the bills introduced by lawmakers specifically targeted trans youth, with several seeking to limit best practice medical care for trans people that is backed by health experts. 

UCLA’s Williams Institute’s ‘Impact of 2023 Legislation on Transgender Youth’ report says that 105,200 trans youth currently live in states that ban gender-affirming care, with 92,700 of them living in places that passed these restrictions in 2023. In contrast, just 26,000 live in states where gender-affirming care bans cannot currently be enforced due to court orders. 

Trans people in some states saw their participation in sports heavily restricted

Educational settings have become some of the most commonly targeted areas by legislators seeking to rollback LGBTQIA+ rights. By the end of last year, 23 states had introduced laws restricting trans people from participating in the team that aligns with their gender identity. As of October, all of the bans introduced affected trans girls and women, while a handful also impacted trans boys and men. Those backing these limitations often claimed it helps ensure sporting events remain fair, though others have criticised this notion due to the lack of scientific evidence supporting it. The broad language used in most of the bills has been the subject of criticism from a number of activists and organisations.

Estimates from UCLA’s Williams Institute say that about 101,500 trans youth (roughly one-third of young trans people in the US) currently live in a state that restricts access to school sports for trans students, while just 11,100 are in one where sports participation bans were not being enforced as a result of court orders. “For transgender people and our families across the country, 2023 was a devastating year of attacks on our safety, our dignity, and our freedom,” said Gillian Branstetter, Communications Strategist at the ACLU, in a statement given to ABC News. “The spreading bans and restrictions on our health care are an especially acute threat to our liberty and well-being, one we only expect to grow more dangerous in the next year.”

More states introduced ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills

‘Don’t Say Gay’ is the nickname given to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which was signed into law in March 2022. It originally restricted “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” but has now been expanded to all grade levels. Several states have since introduced their own forms of the legislation and, by the end of 2023, 11 had laws about what teachers can say in relation to LGBTQIA+ issues, as well as how they can present themselves at work. 

Will 2024 be any better?

Right now, it’s hard to say exactly what 2024 will look like – especially given that it’s an election year. What is clear, however, is that anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation isn’t going away just yet. By the end of last year, the ACLU reported that more than 200 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills had already been prefiled for the 2024 legislative session or carried over from 2023’s. Gabriele Magni, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Director of its LGBTQ+ Politics Research Initiative, told NBC News this is indicative of a “vicious cycle” among Republican lawmakers attempting to save face within their political rankings. “They don’t want to be seen as less conservative or less active on these, and so in some cases in some states, we see the introduction of bills just more to not fall behind in these conservative ranking credentials rather than hoping that it will become legislation,” he said.

Despite this, it’s worth remembering that, at a time of growing hostility for LGBTQIA+ people in the US, there are lawmakers working to shield the community from hate. At the end of 2022, President Joe Biden signed landmark legislation requiring all states to recognise same-sex marriage in what he described as “a blow against hate in all its forms”. In addition to this, states such as New York, California, Minnesota and Michigan are among those that have passed laws protecting LGBTQIA+ people. Democratic lawmakers also reintroduced the Equality Act to Congress, renewing hopes that LGBTQIA+ people could be protected from discrimination at a federal level. 

To learn more about anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in the US, click here