Prioritize LGBTQ+ legislation

3 May 2023

Yet again there have been a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures across the nation according to the American Civil Liberties Union. This year’s number is nearly 500. Many of these bills specifically target Americans who identify as transgender. The good news is that last year, 91 percent of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills failed to become law. The bad news is that 9 percent of these discriminatory bills did go on to become law. 

In Nevada our landscape looks more hopeful as half a dozen priority pro-equality LGBTQ+ bills move through the legislative process.  

This session, we are laser focused on ensuring everyone has access to health care.  Across the nation, states are introducing and passing legislation to block access to life-saving, gender-affirming health care for transgender Americans. These bans encroach upon 14th Amendment constitutional rights to privacy, bodily autonomy and the ability to make private family decisions without government involvement. 

This is a critical point, because if we don’t have control over our own bodies and the ability to make private family decisions, we have to ask ourselves — are we truly free? 

According to The Economist/YouGov poll administered April 8-11 of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens, only 32 percent of people support parents allowing their transgender children or teenagers access to age-appropriate gender affirming care like reversible puberty blockers and hormones. And to be clear — that typically does not mean surgeries. And this care is always done with the consent of parents. 

The poll also shows that only 33 percent of people think that we have not gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender. We need to get that number well over 50. And only 32 percent think that there’s only been a little discrimination against people who are transgender. I’ll tell you now — there’s been a lot of discrimination against transgender people. 

Those who think otherwise may have never talked to someone who is transgender or have read reports about the health, economic, housing and employment disparities transgender Americans face. Therefore, many people don’t have a good understanding of what life-affirming gender-affirming care really is and how vitally important it is for transgender people to have access to it.

And I say that without being condescending, because there was a time when people knew very little about what it means for someone to identify as gay, lesbian, bi-romantic or queer. Or to know a close friend or family member who identifies as such.

Our society is on a steep learning curve to better understand what it means to be transgender. People are grappling with this understanding while transgender people continue to struggle under life-debilitating discrimination, rejection and threats of harm.

To make the lives of transgender people better in Nevada, we need to modernize our laws.

And while we continue to get our laws up to date we cannot forget about young people ages 13-17, who are sexually active and at-risk of pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In 2020, approximately 3,500 young Nevadans had an STI (not including HIV).  Unfortunately, this is not a new concern. In 1971, a law was passed in Nevada and later amended in 1989 to allow minor children to receive testing and treatment for an STI without the consent of a parent. What has been identified as equally important to treatment is prevention.

Allowing sexually active minors to have the ability to access preventative care, if they choose, to decrease their risk of contracting an STI and passing it along to someone else is an important step to take to keep youth safe. We can all agree that we don’t like the idea of young people having sex, especially with the lack of comprehensive sex education that they receive. But, if there’s a way to address a sexually active young person’s health by letting them access preventative care without their parents knowing, then perhaps we can move Nevada down the list as the state with the highest rate of syphilis cases by population.

So, to address these issues and several more, Silver State Equality, along with the Nevada Equality Coalition, supports the following pro-equality legislation, most of which has garnered bipartisan support in the legislature:

Insurance Coverage For Gender Affirming Care (Senate Bill 163: Sen. Melanie Scheible): Would allow health care providers who are licensed in another state that has a ban on gender affirming care, and who is also licensed in Nevada, to provide care without a health care licensing board disqualifying or disciplining them for providing gender- affirming care. 

Gender Affirming Care Shield Law (Senate Bill 302: Sen. James Ohrenschall): Would prohibit health care licensing boards from disqualifying or disciplining a provider who gave gender-affirming services and prohibit the governor from surrendering a person charged with a criminal violation in another state for receiving gender-affirming services in Nevada.

Adolescent Access To Affirmative Care (Senate Bill 172: Sen. Dallas Harris/District 11): Would allow a minor to give consent to a licensed health care provider or clinic to provide preventative care and services related to sexually transmitted infections.

HIV Modernization (Senate Bill 439: Sen. Dallas Harris/District 11): Builds upon the policy changes in 2021 that decriminalized and destigmatized HIV as a communicable disease by also increasing access to related services and care.  

Protections For Incarcerated Transgender Persons (Senate Bill 153: Sen. Melanie Scheible/District 9): Would require the Nevada Department of Corrections to create rules regulating the care and treatment of transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex incarcerated persons.

André C. Wade is state director for Silver State Equality, leading legislative, fundraising and political efforts for the LGBTQ+ civil rights advocacy organization. Wade has worked in human services for nearly 25 years in a variety of public and nonprofit contexts working on issues such as developmental disabilities, child welfare, youth experiencing homelessness national policy advocacy, diversity, equity and inclusion, and LGBTQ+ advocacy.

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