Policy Report: New Resources to Assist in LGBTQ+ Advocacy at the State Level
Sarah Mancoll, SPSSI Policy Director
Policymaking happens at so many different levels. When it comes to an area of policy, such as LGBTQ+ rights, it is therefore important to look not only at what’s happening at the federal level but also what’s happening at the state, local, institutional, and international levels. Case in point: At the federal level, hopes are high that we are nearing another watershed moment for LGBTQ+ rights. In late February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act. As reported by Politico, this "sweeping legislation…would ban discrimination in various areas, including the workplace, housing and education, in addition to federally funded programs. The legislation also would expand the 1964 [Civil Rights] bill to cover public accommodations to include places like shopping malls, sports arenas, and even websites." Although not yet scheduled, a companion bill is expected to be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote, and President Biden is expected to sign the legislation if it passes the Senate.
In contrast, LGBTQ+ rights—particularly transgender people’s rights—have been under attack in many states across the nation. In a recent New York Times op-ed, professor, author, and transgender activist Jennifer Finney Boylan noted that, “By mid-March, 82 such [anti-transgender] bills had been introduced in statehouses this year, from Maine to Montana.” Some of these bills keep transgender girls from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. Other bills ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, or bar transgender kids from using the school bathroom consistent with their gender identity. Many of these bills bear cruelly disingenuous or misleading names, such as the Arkansas “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act” and the North Carolina “Save Women’s Sports Act.”
How does a scholar-activist begin to navigate this sea of discriminatory bills and stay on top of new developments within their own state? One good place to start is APA’s Resources for Grassroots and State-Level Advocacy on LGBTQ+ Issues, which was developed in partnership with Division 44 (the Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity). Through this resource, you can access the Freedom for All Americans Legislative Tracker, which tracks LGBTQ-related legislation nationwide. You can also connect with the Equality Federation, a national network of state equality organizations; visit the website of your state legislature to see what bills are in the pipeline and to identify your state representatives; and visit the website of the Movement Advancement Project, which has interactive fact sheets on LGBTQ+ rights by issue and state.
You’ll also find a wealth of resources on major policy topics affecting the LGBTQ+ community, including policies that seek to ban sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts, policies that seek to criminalize gender-affirming care with minors, policies that seek to exclude transgender people from sports, and policies that seek to provide a “religious exemption” for providers serving LGBTQ+ clients/customers. For each area of policy, APA and Division 44 have provided background on the topic, suggested talking points, research references, examples of advocacy, and links to related reports, guidelines, and APA Council resolutions.
If you are a scholar who is eager to dive in to LGBTQ+ rights advocacy at the state level, it can be hard to know where to start. Thanks to APA’s Resources for Grassroots and State-Level Advocacy on LGBTQ+ Issues, you now have a great launch pad.