States of Perpetual Motion: Legislatures Remain Engaged on Trans Issues

May 9, 2022

World War I began with a single bullet, but within a few years an ever-widening web of alliances had sucked nearly all the world's major powers into the bloodiest war on record. The conservative counter-offensive in the transgender culture war is on the same trajectory. In the latest development, Alabama's Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection (VCAP) Act took effect on Sunday, becoming the first bill banning gender transition procedures on minors to take effect in any state.

The victory may be short-lived. A federal lawsuit was filed, with a request to place a temporary hold on the bill while the lawsuit proceeds. That decision lies with a judge reputed for activism, who has promised to rule by the end of the week. It is noteworthy, however, that he allowed the lawsuit to take effect in the first place.

Alabama's bill builds on an effort in Arkansas in 2021, which became the first state legislature to pass a law protecting children from harmful gender procedures when it passed the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. However, a judge blocked Arkansas' law before it took effect. To date, legislators have introduced the SAFE Act or similar bills in at least 32 states, including at least a dozen introduced in 2022.

On the opposite pole from the SAFE Act are bans on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for minors -- which the Left prefers to call "conversion therapy" because that's supposed to sound worse -- which prohibit counselors from counseling minors away from an LGBT lifestyle, even if the minors are unhappy with LGBT feelings. Such laws, which have passed in some progressive-dominated jurisdictions, suppress free speech and act as a one-way ratchet to trap minors in an abnormal lifestyle they don't want and would otherwise abandon. Last week, a bill to ban SOCE failed in committee in Louisiana.

It's not all good news from the bayou. Another bill that died in committee would have protected parental rights in education, similar to the Florida bill Disney cracked its skull on. And Louisiana also expects to hear a bill to inject sexual orientation and gender identity into housing policy on the house floor today.

But nationwide, on the most substantive issues, there's more good news than bad. Surprisingly, a bill to implement California-style "gender identity" housing in Maryland prisons also failed to make it out of committee.

The culture-war front to see the most action in recent weeks is protecting women's sports. Since men began dominating women's sports, particularly at the collegiate level, dozens of states have stepped up to reestablish common sense and fairness by separating sports by sex. On Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) signed a strong bill protecting women's sports at the collegiate level, and women's sports bills are advancing in other states including Alaska and Tennessee. Georgia's main high school athletic association (which, considering it's Georgia, is probably more powerful than the state government) also voted Wednesday that players must participate on teams "that match the sex listed on their birth certificates at birth."

What's driving all these state victories? Courageous state legislators taking a stand for the truth certainly deserve a round of applause. But many of these victories can only succeed through the tireless work of state-level family policy councils. These organizations partner with Family Research Council to promote faith, family, and freedom, and help to coordinate strategy, resources, and supporters on the ground. Seldom do they earn recognition for their efforts, even when they are subject to violent attacks, such as the attempted arson at Wisconsin Family Action's headquarters on Sunday morning (Mothers' Day, of all days!). State family policy councils are the troopers in the foxholes on the frontlines of the culture war. They're certainly proving what they're capable of this year.