Indiana lawmakers launch all-out campaign against LGBTQ Hoosiers

January 25, 2023 7:00 am

Indiana legislators have filed a host of bills that would impact LGBTQ Hoosiers in negative ways. (Getty Images)

The Indiana General Assembly has put forward a slate of hate — an onslaught of bills targeting LGBTQ Hoosiers and singling out trans kids. There is no other way to describe what we are seeing at the Statehouse. This is not one or two bad bills, this is a well-orchestrated, hate-driven campaign to push trans kids out of public life. 

This is unprecedented:

  • Several bills would ban nearly all forms of science-based care available to trans youth, with potentially dangerous physical and mental health consequences. 
  • Indiana lawmakers are trying to force teachers to out students, and censor in-school discussions of LGBTQ people and issues.
  • Despite the First Amendment’s right to free expression, Indiana lawmakers are fighting to restrict how and when LGBTQ people can be themselves by limiting access to books about them in public libraries.
  • In another effort to out transgender Hoosiers, several bills attempt to limit the ability to update gender information on IDs.

The language that we are seeing in these bills is the same language included in legislation recently passed in Texas and Florida, including Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

Discriminating against LGBTQ Hoosiers is wrong, against the law, and costly. If lawmakers attempt to pass misguided laws, the ACLU of Indiana will fight those discriminatory laws at every turn, using every tool at our disposal to defend LGBTQ rights in Indiana.

Bans on essential medical care for transgender youth

Bills banning essential trans medical care violate the rights of parents and families to make decisions about their children’s health. It is unconstitutional for the government to deprive transgender youth of necessary medical care or to violate the rights of parents to seek medical care for their children.

These bills are based on misinformation about the reality of gender-affirming care, and unduly insert state control into difficult medical decisions. What are we talking about when we talk about gender–affirming care? We are talking about life-saving medical care that trans youth need to live happy and healthy lives.  

Denying medical care and support to transgender kids has been shown to contribute to depression, social isolation, self-hatred, risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior, and more. What could possibly be more cruel than trying to take away a child’s access to care that could save their life? Young people who are trans need support and affirmation, not to be a political target.

Outing and discriminating against LGBTQ students

Another set of bills, aim to strip away protections for books and educational materials, allowing parents to sue schools if they disagree with any part of the curriculum or material available in a school library. Historically, laws such as these have been used to ban sex-education materials and books about LGBTQ issues from libraries.

In addition, multiple classroom censorship bills filed would censor teachers and students’ conversations about gender and race in the classroom. All of these bills raise serious First Amendment concerns and will almost certainly be used to silence protected speech. 

But that isn’t all we are seeing aimed at schools and teachers. Multiple forced outing bills target students who choose not to conform to traditional norms about gender, by requiring school staff to share private information and even speculation about students’ gender identities with other school staff and parents. In addition to targeting trans students, this legislation relies on subjective, outdated and potentially sexist ideas about how boys and girls must traditionally dress and behave.

Dangerous outcomes

This legislation puts transgender youth in danger. Trans youth already experience severely elevated levels of bullying in Indiana – 3 in 5 report being harassed at school by both students and staff. By requiring school staff to share this incredibly personal information, they could be exposing youth to the threat of additional violence at school and at home.

These education bills are often sold as “parental rights” bills, yet the trans medical care bans actually take away the rights of parents to do what is right for their children.  It’s crystal clear that this fight is not about parental rights. This slate of hate is a coordinated campaign targeting and discriminating against trans kids.

These bills threaten LGBTQ Hoosiers’ freedom and safety. According to a recent report from The Trevor Project, 45% of LGBTQ youth in Indiana seriously considered suicide in the past year. Being a kid is hard enough. We don’t need politicians making it even harder by singling LGBTQ kids out for increased bullying and harassment. Passing legislation like this all but guarantees those numbers will increase.


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Katie Blair
Katie Blair

Katie Blair is the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the ACLU of Indiana. She spearheads the organization’s coalition and legislative work on issues like privacy and surveillance, LGBTQ rights, smart justice, immigrant rights, reproductive justice and voting rights.