Things to know about developments impacting LGBTQ+ rights across the US

FILE - Students carrying pride flags and transgender flags leave Great Oak High School in Temecula, Calif., Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, after walking out of the school in protest of the Temecula school district policy requiring parents to be notified if their child identifies as transgender. The rights of LGBTQ+ people continue to be in flux across the U.S. with a new flurry of developments. (Anjali Sharif-Paul/The Orange County Register via AP, File)

FILE – Students carrying pride flags and transgender flags leave Great Oak High School in Temecula, Calif., Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, after walking out of the school in protest of the Temecula school district policy requiring parents to be notified if their child identifies as transgender. The rights of LGBTQ+ people continue to be in flux across the U.S. with a new flurry of developments. (Anjali Sharif-Paul/The Orange County Register via AP, File)

A legal settlement in Florida, legislative action in Arkansas and a lawsuit in Georgia this week made waves in an ongoing national battle over the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.

Over the past three years or so, many Republican officials have been trying to limit those rights, imposing rules on which sports transgender students can play and which bathrooms they can use, among other policies.

The conservative pushback has coincided with more younger people identifying as LGBTQ+.

A Gallup poll released this week based on telephone interviews of more than 12,000 Americans finds that about 1 in 13 U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ+, including less than 1 in 100 of the total population who say they are transgender. But a higher proportion of the youngest adults identified as LGBTQ+ — a little over one-fifth of those born from 1997 through 2005.

The legal and legislative issues at the heart of the debates remain in flux.

Some things to know about this week’s flurry of developments.

FLORIDA AGREES STUDENTS, TEACHERS CAN SAY ‘GAY’

Florida this week settled a legal challenge to its 2022 law that bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, a measure that critics had dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

Under the deal, the law remains in place but some of the restrictions that resulted will be lifted.

The agreement clarifies, for example, that students and teachers are allowed to discuss LGBTQ+ issues. In addition, schools don’t have to remove library books that feature LGBTQ+ characters, halt anti-bullying programs that address bullying of LGBTQ+ people, censor valedictorian speeches in which the speaker talks about their gender identity or sexual orientation, or force teachers to remove rainbow flags from classroom doors.

Florida’s law barring the instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity, championed by the state’s Republican governor and former presidential primary candidate Ron DeSantis, was one of the highest-profile among dozens of measures adopted in Republican-controlled states over the past few years to try to rein in what can be taught about LGBTQ+ issues — and the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

A handful of other states have also limited school curriculums in similar ways.

STATES PUSH TO ALLOW ONLY SEX AT BIRTH ON DRIVERS LICENSES

Arkansas this week stopped allowing residents to use “X” rather than “F” or “M” to designate their sex on driver’s licenses and official identifications.

On Thursday, a predominantly Republican subcommittee endorsed the move, approving the emergency rules for the new policy despite some Democratic lawmakers’ objections. The full panel upheld that vote on Friday, allowing them to take effect immediately.

Earlier in the week, a judge in Kansas left in place the state’s policy of not allowing transgender people to change the listing for sex on their driver’s licenses to something other than their sex at birth.

The policy grew out of a 2023 law that recognizes people’s legal gender identities based only on their anatomy at birth. Lawmakers passed the measure by overriding the veto of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, whose administration had previously allowed people to change the sex designation on their licenses and birth certificates.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas announced Thursday that it will appeal the latest ruling on behalf of transgender clients.

LAWMAKERS CONSIDER RESTRICTIONS ON GENDER-AFFIRMING CARE FOR MINORS

Lawmakers in Kansas are trying to do what most Republican-controlled states have done already: ban gender-affirming care for minors.

The Kansas House this week approved a ban on puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgery — which is rarely used — for those under 18. Senate Republicans delayed a vote that had been planned for Thursday to allow time to tweak the bill with the intent of getting two-thirds of the chamber to support it.

If they can do it, it would put the legislature in position to override an expected veto from Gov. Kelly.

Under the bill, doctors who violate the ban could lose their licenses.

At least 23 states have adopted bans on gender-affirming care for minors in recent years. One of those laws — in Arkansas — was struck down by a court. Judges have put the Idaho and Montana versions on hold while their constitutionality is considered.

Tennessee lawmakers are planning a hearing for Wednesday on a measure that would allow lawsuits against anyone who takes a minor to another state for gender-affirming care without a parent’s consent.

The bill, framed as a parental rights measure, in some ways echoes an Idaho abortion law that was adopted last year and later put on hold by a court while its constitutionality is considered.

The move to prohibit helping minors travel for care is one of several Tennessee proposals that LGBTQ+ rights advocates are concerned about. Others include a bill that would block businesses from setting their own rules about bathroom access — a move that critics say could target transgender people. One measure would bar the state from requiring adoptive or foster parents to agree with a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Another would require educators to tell the school’s administration and student’s parents of any request to affirm the student’s gender identity.

None of these proposals have made it to Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

IDAHO CONSIDERS BAN ON MEDICAID MONEY FOR GENDER-AFFIRMING CARE

An Idaho state Senate committee advanced a bill Thursday to block using public funding for gender-affirming care.

The ban would apply to Medicaid and the state employees heath insurance plan. It has already passed the House and could be up for a final vote in the Senate next week.

The issue of paying for gender-affirming care has been a big one in Idaho. In 2022, the state lost a lawsuit filed by a transgender prison inmate who said she was wrongly denied gender-affirming surgery. In a separate lawsuit, plaintiffs accuse the state’s Medicaid program of moving too slowly to approve such surgeries.

The advocacy and information organization Movement Advancement Project says that nine states ban Medicaid funding for gender-affirming health care for people of all ages.

COLLEGE ATHLETES SUE OVER ALLOWING TRANSGENDER WOMAN TO COMPETE

More than a dozen current and former women’s college athletes on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, accusing the college sports governing body of violating their rights by allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports.

The highest-profile plaintiff in the case is Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer who tied for fifth in the Division I 200 meter freestyle championship two years ago with Lia Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania swimmer. Thomas, who is transgender, also won the 500 freestyle and finished eighth in the 100 that year.

Gaines has remained a major voice against allowing transgender women to compete in women’s events.

She and others assert in their legal claim that the NCAA violated the federal Title IX education equity legislation. A proposed federal rule would go the other way by barring outright bans on transgender women in sports.

At least 25 states have passed restrictions on transgender women and girls competing, though some of those measures have been put on hold by courts.

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Associated Press reporters Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; and Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

AP U.S. News

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