Say this for Republicans, when they have a strategy, they’ll stick to it to the bitter end, no matter how unpopular it is. In state after state, they are doubling down on their self-appointed role of the nation’s genitalia sheriffs and the notion that spreading hate and fear is the path to power. It’s an old playbook that’s worked for authoritarian regimes around the world over and over again. So the escalating rhetorical attacks on trans people, and the resulting physical attacks, is on point from a GOP that wants to end democracy. And is obsessed with people’s private parts.
South Carolina is taking the lead in the latest iteration of that, with one state senator attempting to amend the state’s constitution to define gender “in the context of reproductive potential … without regard to an individual’s psychological, chosen or subjective experience of gender.” This effort from State Sen. Danny Verdin is of course spearheaded by national hate groups posing as Republican think tanks, with the pernicious justification of protecting rights.
“We need to have a common language and know what we’re talking about to protect women’s rights,” the president of the right-wing nonprofit Independent Women’s Forum, Carrie Lukas, told Politico. “Right now, there’s tremendous confusion and concern, and a lot of conflict about when women’s only programs or spaces are allowed, and it shouldn’t be this way.” To be clear, there is not tremendous confusion and concern in the public about this, at least not at the policy level, however they might feel personally.
Both the midterm results and exit polling from November’s ballot demonstrate just how much the general public doesn’t want lawmakers to be obsessing over anti-LGBTQ+ crap. Just 5% of voters said transgender health care and participation in sports mattered to them in this election. The majority were electing a record number of LGBTQ+ candidates, with 1,065 openly LGBTQ+ people running, and 340 winning.
“Voters did show up and they showed that Americans by and large do not want the extremism that was offered by these far-right politicians when it comes to LGBTQ rights,” Geoff Wetrosky, campaign director for the Human Rights Campaign, told the 19th.
That’s not stopping IWF and other haters. They, and other fascist women’s groups, are taking their hate fest to the statehouses in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Dakota, and Kansas in the name of protecting women’s rights. Never mind that women were focused in this election on the actual attack on their rights—the end of federal abortion guarantees—and that’s what drove them to the polls.
Nonetheless, GOP attorneys general and governors, as well as U.S. representatives and senators, are joining the hate bandwagon. Lukas’ group has created a 9-point “Women’s Bill of Rights” that sets definitions for gender-rated words, including “mother” and “father.” Five GOP senators and a few dozen House lawmakers have signed onto that. Republicans in Indiana and Missouri have copycat “don’t say gay” bills, following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ lead.
Across the red states, lawmakers are going to try to ban books and they’re going to try to deny health care to young trans people, prohibiting the already nearly nonexistent gender reassignment surgery as well as hormone therapy to teens and young adults. In plenty of states, they will succeed.
This effort is in large part to do what they’ve successfully done on abortion, get to the captured Supreme Court. Oklahoma state Rep. Jim Olsen fessed up to Politico. “A bill regarded as this controversial, you can guarantee it’s going to end up in the courts,” he said. He’s got legislation based loosely on the Texas GOP’s abortion bounty bill that the Supreme Court let stand, which would allow minors who received puberty-blocking or hormone treatment to bring civil or felony suits against their doctor. “That’s just part of the deal. … You can hope the courts stay close to the Constitution and close to common sense.”
Christina Polizzi of the Democratic State Legislative Committee predicts more of this from GOP lawmakers. “These pieces of legislation that Republicans are pushing are completely unpopular,” she told Politico. “[Despite] the fact that it was clearly unpopular in places like Michigan, I see no signs of Republicans slowing down. We can expect to see them double down on this rhetoric in their next sessions.”
At the same time, Democrats are going to fight back with anti-discrimination efforts. Texas state Rep. Erin Zweiner, a Democrat, has already pre-filed House Bill 970, a proposal from the 2021 session that would repeal a “criminality of homosexual conduct” state law that is still on the books.
That’s exactly what Democrats need to do, Zein Murib, assistant professor of political science at Fordham University, told the 19th. “Since 2020, there have been a chorus of voices drawing attention to how hateful rhetoric emboldens people to enact violence,” they said. “The failure of the ‘red wave’ means that Democrats owe voters now. If people who voted for Democrats want to see a shift in discourse on LGBTQ issues and anti-racist pedagogy, now is the time to ask—and even demand—the Democrats take up these issues.”