Indiana General Assembly advances 18 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills

Transgender youth in Indiana to face bans to gender-affirming healthcare and LGBTQIA+ education. Photo by Lauren Gdowski.


Where the bills stand

In the first three months of 2023, the Indiana General Assembly has introduced and advanced 18 bills targeting the LGBTQIA+ community. Labeled the “Slate of Hate” by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, the collection of bills seeks to limit the presence of LGBTQIA+ people in public spaces. In some cases, the bills would outright ban LGBTQIA+ members of the community from accessing everyday resources.

Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies have condemned these bills because of how they would impact their lives and the lives of those around them. 

Violet Ross, a sophomore English literature and philosophy double major, said she has already seen the social impact of these bills, and she worries about the negative effects they would have if written into law.

“I’ve definitely seen a lot more anti-trans rhetoric and positions being expressed … across the country,” Ross said. “It’s hard to live authentically as who I am because I’m scared [of] ramifications in a state like [Indiana].”

Many of these bills will impact minors, and those in opposition are concerned how the lives of LGBTQIA+ children will change when their identities are not protected. 

Instructor of psychology Dr. Shelby Terwillegar reflected on her time working with middle school students and said she fears how their experiences will be impacted.

“If passed, [these bills] would cause so much heartache for students and families across the state,” Terwillegar said. “I mean, we’re talking about kids who could have been integrated into a school as who they are and who they want to be, and then this would remove that.”

Similarly, Dr. Ann Savage, professor of communications and media studies and race, gender and sexuality studies affiliate faculty, said the pressure of such a high number of bills targeting such a small group of people in the state has already started to weigh on LGBTQIA+ Hoosiers. 

“[The bills] weigh on people’s mental health,” Savage said. “To have a state go after your identity is a very powerful form of bullying. It definitely has an impact … [talking] about people as being illegal or abnormal or wrong.” 

Bills regarding LGBTQIA+ healthcare — SB 480, HB 1118, HB 1220, HB 1231, HB 1525, HB 1232 HB 1407, HB 1569, HB 1589

Indiana is currently advancing nine bills related to healthcare and medicine for LGBTQIA+ people, making up a majority of the bills being discussed. Many of these bills would limit the accessibility of gender-affirming healthcare for transgender people, with five of them including specific language to limit or prohibit providing gender-affirming healthcare to minors. 

SB 480 has progressed the furthest thus far. This bill prohibits any medical provider from providing or aiding in the provision of gender-affirming care to transgender minors. This would primarily ban healthcare in the form of hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers for minors. After being passed through committee and the Senate, SB 480 was referred to and passed through the Committee on Public Health by the House. 

SB 480 will now go to the full House. Should it pass there, the bill will be turned over to Governor Eric Holcomb to be written into law or vetoed and returned to the General Assembly.

Similarly, several House bills have been introduced and advanced to committee with the intention of banning gender-affirming healthcare for minors. These bills include HB 1118, HB 1220, HB 1231 and HB 1525

Ross said these bills are the state’s way of placing their views over those of medical professionals, transgender people and their loved ones.

“Even if a doctor consents, the parent consents, and the child consents, the government could just say no,” Ross said.

In addition to banning access to healthcare, several bills have been introduced protecting those who deny transgender people the gender-affirming care they need. Three such House bills have been referred to committee, with two of them passing in the House and being referred to committee by the Senate afterward.

HB 1232, the first of these three, codifies that the Department Of Child Services may not substantiate a case of child abuse or neglect on the grounds that a parent is not respecting their transgender child’s gender identity. Additionally, a child may not be removed from a home where their preferred gender identity is not validated. HB 1232 is still advancing after being referred to the Committee on Family, Children, and Human Affairs on Jan. 10. 

Like HB 1232, HB 1407 seeks to protect a parent’s right to raise and educate their child as they see fit. This includes raising their child consistent with the child’s biological sex assigned at birth and declining to give their child access to medication or medical procedures which would alter their gender presentation. HB 1407 passed in the House and was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure on March 9. 

HB 1569 restricts the Department of Corrections from authorizing any funding or resources towards providing gender reassignment surgery for incarcerated offenders. HB 1569 has passed in the House and was referred to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law on Feb. 27. 

The last bill targeted towards LGBTQIA+ healthcare is HB 1589, which permits medical malpractice claims for gender transition treatments to be filed up to 15 years after the claimant becomes 21 years of age. HB 1589 was referred to the House Committee on Public Health on Jan. 19. 

Bills regarding LGBTQIA+ education — HB 1608, SB 354, SB 413, HB 1346, SB 386

There are currently five bills advancing which impact the presence of the LGBTQIA+ community in education and schools. This includes bans on education regarding sexuality and gender as well as policing of the gender identity of students and excluding transgender students from school activities such as sports. 

Multiple of these bills would prohibit educators and school staff from referring to a transgender student with preferred names or pronouns and require school faculty to report any incidences of this behavior to the student’s family. 

Terwillegar said she worries that the safety of LGBTQIA+ students in Indiana will be challenged by the bills impacting their education. 

“There’s LGBT students, faculty and staff [at Butler], and [these bills are] making this state a difficult place to live outside of a very specific state of mind,” Terwillegar said. “It’s limiting [for] a lot of people.” 

HB 1608, Indiana’s own “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” has advanced the furthest of these bills thus far. The bill dictates that schools may not teach on human sexuality in kindergarten through third grade. Additionally, the bill requires school faculty and staff to only use the names and pronouns for students which coincide with their birth certificate, and they must report to a student’s parent when said student requests a change of name or pronouns that is inconsistent with their legal name or biological sex. HB 1608 passed in the House and was referred to the Senate committee on Education and Career Development on March 6. 

While this bill continues to creep towards being written into law, several other bills exist with similar objectives should it fail.

SB 354, SB 413 and HB 1346 all contain language which, if passed, would also require school staff to report to a student’s parents if a request to change their name or pronouns is made. Currently, all three have been referred to committee following their initial readings in January.

The final bill up for consideration in regard to education is SB 386, which would ban institutions and instructors from teaching on certain subjects regarding gender, sexuality, marital status and familial status as well as race, creed and religion. SB 386 was referred to the Committee on Education and Career Development following its first reading on Jan. 19.

Bills regarding proper identification — SB 351, HB 1524

The legislature is currently reviewing two bills which would make it more difficult for transgender and nonbinary people to change the gender markers on their legal identifications, such as birth certificates and driver’s licenses. 

The first of these two bills, SB 351, seeks to define sex — as it is used on forms of identification — as the strict label of male or female as dictated by a person’s sex hormones, sex chromosomes and external and internal genitalia present at birth regardless of said person’s psychological or personal experience of gender. SB 351 is still progressing after being referred to the Committee on Health and Provider Services on Jan. 12. 

The other bill, HB 1524, dictates that the gender indicated on an individual’s birth certificate is permanent and may not be changed unless a clerical error was made when the gender was initially identified. HB 1524 is in the process of advancing after being referred to the Committee on Public Health on Jan. 19. 

Other anti-LGBTQIA+ bills — HB 1520, SB 487

Beyond the other three categories, Indiana has two miscellaneous bills targeting LGBTQIA+ people, specifically transgender people, in public and private spaces. Generally, these bills refer to the reception of transgender people in spaces such as public restrooms or other shared public spaces. 

HB 1520 would prohibit transgender people from entering the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, classifying it as a Class B misdemeanor if a person knowingly enters a bathroom that does not align with their birth sex. HB 1520 is currently advancing after being referred to the Committee on Courts and Criminal Code on Jan. 19. 

Under SB 487, the Department of Corrections would be obligated to assign an offender with the department which matches their sex assigned at birth and in accordance with the offender’s genetics and reproductive biology. SB 487 is currently in the process of advancing after being introduced and referred to the Committee on Health and Provider Services on Jan. 19. 

What comes next

None of these bills have been passed into law, meaning that the future for LGBTQIA+ people in Indiana remains uncertain. 

For those in opposition of the bills, there is still time to protest and push for change. Savage said that even though the notion may be daunting, change cannot be made without those who wish to see it happen. 

“It is a scary time, and I hate to say that,” Savage said. “But this is what I tell students all the time — we can’t just assume [change] is going to happen. We have to work for it and fight for it. The future is up to us and what we decide.”


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