With LGBTQ+ rights under fire nationally, New York has the opportunity to protect them

Young woman waving lgbti flag
Getty Images

Despite all the progress made since the landmark Stonewall riots of 1969, the civil rights of LGBTQ+ Americans are under constant attack across the country.

At the time this article was written, more than 490 bills attacking LGBTQ+ rights have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide. By the time you’re reading this, the number will likely be higher. So far in 2023, there have been more anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across the country than in each of the previous five years. These proposed LGBTQ+ erasure bills strip away dozens of legal protections and rights for LGBTQ+ Americans.

Of these hundreds of bills, 45 have been passed within state legislatures and are now law. These include laws banning gender affirming care for transgender youth, laws requiring or allowing misgendering of transgender students, laws targeting drag performances, laws creating a license to discriminate and laws censoring school curriculum, including books. 

The largest number of these laws target gender affirming care, restricting care for trans youth in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia – nearly a third of the United States.

Most recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, one of the nation’s top promoters of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and now a Republican candidate for president, signed legislation to outlaw gender-affirming care for youth and, to a certain extent, adults. DeSantis also inked a bill barring people from using bathrooms that are inconsistent with their gender assigned at birth. 

While right-wing politicians claiming to be conservative continue to promote bigotry for the benefit of their larger ideological agendas, LGBTQ+ individuals across the country continue to suffer at their hands. But in New York, efforts are being made to expand and protect the civil rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.

As the home of Stonewall, New York has a long history of fighting for the rights LGBTQ+ individuals and continues to work to honor this legacy today. New York’s laws protect the rights of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, from marriage to gender affirming care, but they also have the possibility to do much more. 

The Safe Haven for Transgender Youth and Families Act, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, seeks to protect transgender youths and their families, whether they are native New Yorkers or individuals seeking refuge from states steeped in transphobia. 

This Act looks to protect these individuals and their families by ensuring that children will not be separated from their parents for aiding in their access to gender-affirming care, protect the information of individuals who come to New York seeking gender-affirming care, prohibit law enforcement from cooperating with other states’ investigations regarding legal gender-affirming care, and protect physicians who provide gender-affirming care in New York. 

“Transgender youth are under attack across the country, with extremist politicians baselessly restricting access to basic health care and some states even punishing health care providers following best practices, evidence-based medical care supported by every major medical association,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLADD.  Sen. Hoylman’s bill will safeguard trans youth, their families, and their doctors in New York, critically providing a safe haven for families and medical professionals who need it the most.”

The passing of this law would, as its title suggests, make New York a safe haven for transgender youths seeking care across the country, ensuring no legal repercussions would come to them for seeking the gender-affirming health care they deserve. 

Studies show that gender-affirming care reduces the risk a transgender young person will commit suicide by 73%. This past year half of transgender and non-binary youths reported to have seriously considered suicide, and one in five attempted suicide in the past year. 

Organizations like The Trevor Project, a national organization dedicated to ​​ending suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer 
and questioning young people, work to provide resources for all LGBTQ+ youths accross the country, but there is only so much that they can try to do. The real effort needs to be made by legislators across the country that have the power to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from legislation targeting their ability to receive gender affirming care and live openly throughout the United States. 

The Human Rights Campaign, the United States’ largest LGBTQ+ political lobbying organization, is working to make this reality. Historically, the HRC has worked alongside politicians to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. 

While their work has never ceased, their work is now more vital than ever to stopping attacks on LGBTQ+ rights across the nation. 

Countless other organizations continue the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, nearly a decade after marriage equality became law, as politicians across the nation push for regressive legislation. 

With an uncertain future, LGBTQ+ individuals are in need of support across the board, from politicians to every day allies. New York has the opportunity to serve as a sanctuary for those seeking care and fleeing states where their fundamental right to exist is under attack. 

As Pride month begins, we are reminded of the long fight of those who came before to secure civil rights — and though more arduous fights remain to tackle bigotry in America, we must remember that love and justice always win in the end.