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Our Fight for LGBTQ+ Youth

We’ve been working together for decades to make sure LGBTQ+ youth have the support and freedom they need to be themselves and thrive as part of their communities.

From establishing the right for gay students to enjoy Prom with their boyfriend or girlfriend like any other kid, to making sure transgender students can participate in school on the same terms as everyone else, GLAD – and you – have worked alongside inspiring LGBTQ+ young people to imagine and create a better world.

Now, with new waves of attacks against LGBTQ+ youth, we must continue to protect the vision we share for a safer and more free future.

With your support, GLAD is:

Fighting to protect access to established medical care that helps transgender youth survive and thrive.

This week, we asked the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve a federal district court decision blocking Alabama’s ban on healthcare for transgender youth.

As GLAD’s Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights, Jennifer Levi said:

“Enforcement of Alabama’s criminal transgender healthcare ban will harm thousands of transgender adolescents across Alabama and will put Alabama parents in the excruciating position of not being able to get the medical care their children need to thrive. We will support these parents and their kids in pushing back against that dangerous reality on every level.”

Defending supportive school policies that enable trans youth and all students to learn and grow.

Today, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing an important case on whether schools can support transgender students even if some parents disagree. We submitted a friend of the court brief with the MA Superintendent’s Association, sharing research that shows positive school climates and trusted relationships with adults are critical to academic success for all students.

As Mary Bonauto, Senior Director of Civil Rights and Legal Strategies, said:

“When teachers and other educators acknowledge and respect students, including their requested names and pronouns, that creates the safety that allows brain development and learning to flourish while also meeting the requirement of equal educational opportunity. Parents have a right to be involved in their children’s education, but parents and students have navigated these and other issues before without a new constitutional mandate of disclosure and can do so today.”

Ensuring students can learn about themselves and the world around them without bans on important topics like LGBTQ+ identities, race, and racism.

Last month, GLAD and our partners asked a federal district court in New Hampshire to declare the state’s harmful “Banned Concepts” law unconstitutional.

As GLAD Attorney Chris Erchull said:

“Public school teachers work hard every day to ensure students can develop the knowledge and critical thinking skills they need to be successful and contribute to their communities. Teachers can’t do that effectively when they are subject to this vague law, with no guidance, that forces them to limit class discussions and avoid certain important topics altogether. LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and students with disabilities are being especially harmed, but the chilling effect of this law is doing a severe disservice to all students, when their teachers can’t ensure they gain a full, rich understanding of history and the people and world around them.”

With your help, GLAD will never stop working to support LGBTQ+ youth and secure a better future for all of us.


GLAD Cheers Federal Department of Health and Human Services Move to Strengthen Non-discrimination Protections for LGBTQ+ People Accessing Vital Programs

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is pleased that the Biden Administration has moved to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in important social services programs funded by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

“At a time when many state legislatures are working overtime to prevent LGBTQ+ people—particularly transgender people—from accessing health care and essential services, we appreciate the Biden Administration’s move to clearly ensure protection for the constitutional rights of LGBTQ+ people and their families to receive services they need to maintain their health and well-being,” said Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.


Statement on Supreme Court Ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis

In a 6-3 ruling today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a highly fact-specific decision authorizing a narrow exception to a state nondiscrimination law for a website developer whose work it found involves selecting customers to convey the designer’s message. While the case allows for the first time a limited First Amendment exemption from laws requiring businesses open to the public to offer the goods and services they sell without discrimination, the unusual nature of the transaction in the case suggests the ruling has virtually no application to the overwhelming majority of businesses providing goods and services to the public.

Based on the facts agreed upon by the parties, the Court found that the seller vets and endorses each client, meets with the couple to discuss “unique” stories, creates original artwork, designs and text for each, and explicitly expresses her support for their wedding. All of this, the Court said, pointed to the “expressive” nature of her conduct and justied a narrow exception to the nondiscrimination law. This is different from virtually all businesses that sell goods and services to the public and does not reflect how the overwhelming majority of companies operate. 

Mary Bonauto, Senior Director of Civil Rights and Legal Strategies at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, issued the following statement:

“While today’s ruling is extremely limited, we are disappointed to see that for the first time, and in the context of LGBTQ+ people who are already facing a “heartbreaking” “backlash to the movement for liberty and equality for gender and sexual minorities,” as the dissent noted, an unprecedented exemption to nondiscrimination laws that have always been considered to forbid conduct, not speech. This is not the broad victory Lorie Smith and her counsel sought – today’s ruling importantly upholds the validity of nondiscrimination laws, including for LGBTQ+ people who may obtain goods and services ‘on the same terms offered to other members of the public’ – but it is not the end of efforts to push LGBTQ+ people and couples into a second class status. GLAD and our movement will resist that effort every step of the way.

For decades, case law and public agreement have upheld the principle that nondiscrimination laws are bound up with first principles of equality, with mutual respect and civic unity, and with our need for goods and services no matter who and where we are. It is crucial to ensure today’s ruling remains limited to the highly specific and customized services the Court found in this case, and is not seen as a green light to assert a free speech defense in other areas of law. Denying services to same-sex couples is out of step with what the vast majority of Americans believe, and the overwhelming majority of Americans, including business owners, strive to treat everyone with dignity and respect as they too want to be treated. Today’s decision from the Supreme Court does not change that.

LGBTQ+ people are family members, co-workers, business owners, and customers in every community and we remain committed to working alongside our neighbors to ensure all people can go about our daily lives and access the goods and services we need without discrimination. As Justice Kennedy summarized for several of the current justices in Masterpiece Cakeshop just 5 years ago, ‘religious and philosophical objections of business owners and other actors in the economy and in society” do not suffice to ‘deny protected persons equal access to goods and services” under public accommodations laws like Colorado’s.’ We will fight to maintain that principle for all of the people protected by nondiscrimination laws.”

GLAD submitted a friend of the Court brief in this case for GLAD, NCLR, Lambda Legal, HRC, The Task Force, and thanks White & Case for its assistance.

Visit the 303 Creative v. Elenis case page.


Statement of Janson Wu, Executive Director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Today’s majority opinion ending the consideration of race as one of many factors for qualified students in college admissions ignores the substantial factual record supporting the lawfulness of Harvard and University of North Carolina’s admissions programs and discounts present and past racial inequities the 14th Amendment to our constitution was intended to address. Equal educational opportunities are fundamental to reducing barriers to economic, leadership, and other life opportunities, to ensuring full participation and a diversity of perspectives in a robust, multi-racial democracy, and to realizing freedom for all.

The benefits that accrue to all students from being able to learn from others of different perspectives and experiences, and to build respect for one another, cannot be overstated. I attended Harvard College as an Asian-American student in the late 1990s. Coming from a predominantly white community in rural upstate New York, the racial diversity of students and backgrounds opened a new world of experiences and relationships that led to greater growth, learning, and discovery.

Today’s decision will make it harder for colleges and universities to provide that same learning environment that benefited me and all students, including Asian-American students – but we cannot and will not turn our backs on that goal.

As Justice Jackson plainly put it in her dissent in the North Carolina case: The only way out of this morass—for all of us—is to stare at racial disparity unblinkingly, and then do what evidence and experts tell us is required to level the playing field and march forward together, collectively striving to achieve true equality for all Americans.

While the Court has spoken as to admissions, it remains true that life experiences, including those related to a person’s race, are matters that can be lifted up by prospective students and sought and considered by educational institutions in line with their missions. We must and will keep working together to ensure every student has the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”

Learn more about the case.


HIV Medicine Association and National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors Warn of Tens of Thousands of New HIV Cases and Billions in Health Care Costs if Decision in Braidwood v. Becerra is Allowed to Stand

The organizations, which represent thousands of healthcare providers, public officials, and policy experts with expertise in the treatment and prevention of HIV and the demographics and dynamics of the epidemic, filed a friend-of-the-court brief today in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) today filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, urging reversal of the federal district court order in Braidwood v. Becerra. That ruling blocked a requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that insurers cover designated preventive care services, including HIV PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), without cost sharing. HIV PrEP is an extraordinary medical breakthrough that reduces the risk of HIV transmission by close to one hundred percent.

The brief was authored by attorneys at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

NASTAD and HIVMA include thousands of physicians and other healthcare providers with expertise in the treatment and prevention of HIV; government public officials from every state responsible for stopping the epidemic; and policy experts who understand the demographics and dynamics of the epidemic. Their brief lays out critical information demonstrating how requiring copays and deductibles for PrEP will significantly decrease utilization of PrEP, cause tens of thousands of new and preventable HIV cases, with billions of dollars in associated healthcare costs, and reverse the progress our nation has made towards curbing, and ultimately ending, the HIV epidemic.

“As an organization representing thousands of physicians and other health care professionals working on the frontlines of the HIV epidemic in communities across the country, we are deeply concerned about the harmful and far-reaching impacts this decision will have if allowed to stand,” said Michelle Cespedes, MD, MS, Chair, HIVMA. “Reinstating cost-sharing for PrEP would directly cause tens of thousands of preventable cases of HIV transmission and set back decades of progress toward curbing the epidemic.”

While the ruling from the Texas court in Braidwood v. Becerra broadly enjoined the cost-sharing mandate for all recommended preventive services, the case began as a challenge specifically to the requirement to cover PrEP without copays or deductibles. The brief filed today provides the Court of Appeals with important historical and current-day information about the tremendous toll the HIV epidemic has had on millions of lives, as well as the role discrimination and stigma have played in preventing Americans from accessing highly effective prevention and treatment.

“The Braidwood decision is rooted in stigma and bigotry towards the LGBTQ+ community and people vulnerable to HIV,” said Dr. Stephen Lee, NASTAD Executive Director. “It will cause incalculable harm to our efforts to end the HIV epidemic. We are pleased to join HIVMA in filing an amicus brief to help offer insight into why this decision is so detrimental to our HIV/AIDS public health system.”

The brief cites a recent epidemiological analysis conducted by experts at Harvard and Yale predicting, under the most cautious and conservative estimates, that blocking the ACA’s no cost sharing provision for PrEP will result in an additional 2,057 HIV infections in the first year alone. Including an additional predicted 1,892 secondary infections brings that number to 3,949 people with HIV in just the first year, which will cost the healthcare system a staggering $1.66 billion. Extending that conservative model just five years into the future predicts approximately an additional 20,000 people with HIV and costs to the United States healthcare system of over $8 billion as a result of the reimposition of barriers to accessing PrEP.

The brief also describes the sobering and unacceptable racial/ethnic and geographic disparities in both the impact of the epidemic and access to PrEP. In 2021, the CDC estimates that only 11% of Black people and 20% of Hispanic/Latino people who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it, as opposed to 78% of White people. In the same year, more than half (52%) of new HIV infections were in the U.S. South, yet the states with the highest unmet need for PrEP are Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Mississippi.

“Copays and deductibles deter people from accessing healthcare,” said Ben Klein, Senior Director of Litigation and HIV Law at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “PrEP is nearly 100% effective at preventing transmission of HIV but it is already underutilized, particularly among Black and Latino communities. As the brief filed today by HIVMA and NASTAD demonstrates, allowing the lower court’s ruling in Braidwood v. Becerra to stand will exacerbate racial health disparities, increase new HIV diagnoses by the tens of thousands, and have devastating consequences on our efforts to end the epidemic. GLAD is pleased to partner with the HIVMA, NASTAD, and the law firm Mintz to ensure that the Court of Appeals understands the devastating consequences for HIV prevention if the District Court’s decision stands.”

“The brief filed today by HIVMA and NASTAD underscores the fact that tens of thousands of American lives and billions of dollars of healthcare costs are literally in the balance with the outcome of this case,” said Drew DeVoogd, Member, Mintz. “Mintz is happy to work with GLAD, HIVMA, and NASTAD to highlight the massive human harm and economic cost the District Court’s decision will have if it is allowed to stand, eroding many years of hard-won public health progress in the fight against the HIV epidemic.”

Read the brief


LGBTQ Paths to Parentage Security: New Guide from GLAD and Mombian Helps LGBTQ Parents Understand Options for Protecting Their Families

Resource answers frequently asked questions about securing legal ties between children and parents in the face of a national patchwork of protections and outdated laws

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Mombian have partnered to create “LGBTQ Paths to Parentage Security,” a resource for LGBTQ+ parents and others that answers frequently asked questions about how LGBTQ+ parents can ensure their child-parent relationships will be secure and recognized in every state. It reflects the latest options and terminology as more states like Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Colorado expand access to ways of protecting children born via assisted reproduction and those with LGBTQ+ parents.

Not all states offer the same paths to parentage for these families, however. Because of bias and discrimination, both married and unmarried LGBTQ+ parents are advised to have the security of a court judgment to protect their child-parent relationships. Children have been pulled into the child welfare system because a parent who loves and cares for them wasn’t recognized as a legal parent, and non-birth parents who planned for and raised their kids have been stripped of their parental rights because a court relied on outdated laws that fail to acknowledge the existence of same-gender parents.

“LGBTQ Paths to Parentage Security” offers straightforward answers to questions like: 

  • What is parentage?
  • Is it important to get a court judgment establishing that I am a parent?
  • What if I am already on my child’s birth certificate?
  • What options do I have to ensure my parental status will be recognized In all states?
  • Do I need a lawyer?

Polly Crozier, Director of Family Advocacy at GLAD, said, “It is critical for LGBTQ+ parents to have the information and guidance they need about establishing and securing their legal ties to their children, in order to protect their children no matter where the family may move or travel.

“At the same time, states must update their parentage laws to better protect all children and families. States like Rhode Island are paving the way by passing comprehensive parentage protections and streamlining the process for confirmatory adoption,” she added, “We need more states to remove existing barriers to legal parentage, including outdated laws that leave LGBTQ+ parents and their children vulnerable.”

Dana Rudolph, Founder and Publisher of Mombian (, an award-winning blog for LGBTQ parents, said, “One of the most frequent questions I hear from other LGBTQ parents is whether they need to take additional steps to secure their parentage, particularly if they’re already on their child’s birth certificate. This guide can help them understand why such steps are necessary and what their options may be.”

“LGBTQ Paths to Parentage Security” complements a new report, “Relationships at Risk: Why We Need to Update State Parentage Laws to Protect Children and Families,” from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), in partnership with COLAGE, Family Equality, GLAD, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

The report details how the current patchwork of parentage laws across the country – many of which haven’t been updated in decades – leaves LGBTQ parents and their children vulnerable. It offers recommendations for all states to update and improve parentage laws, highlighting states that have taken crucial steps to update their parentage laws in recent years, including Colorado, Connecticut, and Rhode Island – and states like Massachusetts, which has the opportunity right now to protect LGBTQ+ families with the Massachusetts Parentage Act (H 1713 / S 947).

Find “LGBTQ Paths to Parentage Security” at

Find “Relationships at Risk” at


GLAD Praises Refiling of the Equality Act in Congress

Federal legislation would provide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQI+ Americans

Today, the Congressional Equality Caucus refiled the Equality Act, (H.R. 15/S. 5), legislation that would amend existing civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ people in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federally-funded programs, credit, and jury service.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) strongly supports the Equality Act as a means to ensure LGBTQ+ Americans are treated with the same dignity, fairness, and respect afforded to others.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans across political parties, states, and walks of life support updating our federal laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The Equality Act will ensure that LGBTQ+ people—and all people—can support their families and contribute to their communities and workplaces while being treated with the dignity and equality all Americans need and deserve,” said Janson Wu, executive director of GLAD.

The lead sponsors of the Equality Act are Representative Mark Takano and Senator Jeff Merkley, who was joined by Senator Tammy Baldwin and Senator Cory Booker for reintroduction in the Senate. The Equality Act garnered bipartisan support when it passed in the House in 2019 and 2021.

“We are grateful to Representative Takano and Senator Merkley for their leadership in re-introducing the Equality Act at this moment,” Wu added. “While some politicians are targeting LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, with extremely harmful legislation, with this bill Congress has an opportunity to uphold the will of the American people and ensure explicit protections in federal law for LGBTQ+ people in housing, employment, and all areas of life.”

In addition to the aforementioned protections for LGBTQI+ people, the Equality Act would also prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in public accommodations and federally funded programs. It also expands the definition of public accommodations in the Civil Rights Act, strengthening protections not just on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics), but also on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion.


At the Supreme Court: 303 Creative v. Elenis Puts Critical Anti-discrimination Protections at Risk

The Supreme Court building. Photo by Joe Ravi
Photo by Joe Ravi

This June, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, in which a business seeks to use the owner’s disapproval of same-sex marriage to justify side-stepping anti-discrimination laws.

The plaintiff, a Colorado website design business, is asking the Court to create a “free speech” exemption from state anti-discrimination laws. For the Court to do so would dramatically reverse decades of both case law and public norms, undercutting the bedrock of assurances we all depend on to access goods and services in the general marketplace every day.

Specifically, 303 Creative, which is subject to Colorado’s LGBTQ- inclusive anti-discrimination law, wants the right to refuse to sell wedding-related websites to same-sex couples. The business says it is entitled to an exemption allowing it to turn away LGBTQ+ people it does not want to serve so that it and other companies are not “compelled to speak” a message of support for same-sex couples by the act of selling its service.

“To be clear, the serious danger in this case is not whether this one business will sell wedding websites to same-sex couples — no couple has asked them to, and in fact, they don’t even sell wedding websites at this time,” says Mary Bonauto, GLAD’s Senior Director of Civil Rights and Litigation Strategies. “The danger is that this business owner seeks sweeping changes to current law ensuring that goods and services are available to all of us regardless of whether people operating the business might approve of their customers or not. For the Court to find a free speech right for stores, shops, and services to discriminate would be a radical departure from iconic precedents that will fuel the escalating efforts to chip away at vital protections for LGBTQ+ people and other groups facing discrimination.”

The Court framed the question in the case as whether an “artist” would be “compelled to speak or stay silent” by virtue of the anti-discrimination law. But the “artist” here is a business open to the general public, and for many decades there has been no question that states are free to regulate businesses — including businesses that use creativity — when they sell their services in the general marketplace, as 303 Creative plans to do. The Supreme Court and lower courts have repeatedly rejected First Amendment claims to the contrary. That’s because denying service to someone because of who they are is discriminatory conduct, not artistry or self-expression.

The impact of a ruling for the business in this case could be staggering. A loss here could take many forms, such as allowing refusals specifically for wedding-related services, creating a specific right to refuse service to LGBTQ+ people, or permitting any business that is open to the public to evade anti-discrimination laws if they can argue their business is “artistic” or “expressive.”

For the Court to grant any constitutional exemption to anti-discrimination laws allowing people to be turned away because of who they are would be a remarkable turning point and incredibly harmful. While this case targets LGBTQ+ people and same-sex couples who seek to marry, a new free speech defense to businesses providing service without discrimination could be invoked against people from all walks of life. Any ruling for 303 Creative also risks being seen by some as a green light to assert a free speech defense in other areas of law.

We remain determined to fight and forge our path forward in these precarious times for our LGBTQ+ community and all Americans’ individual and civil rights. We certainly hope the Court will come to the right conclusion in this case, affirm decades of precedent, and issue a ruling upholding our anti-discrimination laws. But no matter how the Court rules, it is crucial for us all to reaffirm that every individual, regardless of who we are or whom we love, deserves the fundamental freedom to go about our daily lives and access the goods and services we need without discrimination.

Read GLAD’s brief in 303 Creative, developed with Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and also joined by HRC and the Task Force.

UPDATE: On June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled on 303 Creative. Read our statement here.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2023 GLAD Briefs newsletter. Read more.


Defending LGBTQ+ Inclusion and the Freedom to Learn in Our Public Schools

Public schools are under attack in the US

Spurred on by extremist politicians, a small but vocal minority is seeking to undo schools as student-centered places where young people are safe and engaged in learning what they need to succeed in life — under the banner of “parents’ rights.” In addition to putting students at risk, these efforts seek to extend the parental preferences of some into every classroom and add to the already heavy burden borne by the teachers and other professionals who work tirelessly every day to support and educate kids.

At least 177 bills have been introduced in state legislatures this session, many of which also explicitly or implicitly target LGBTQ+ and other vulnerable students for exclusion and surveillance or making them invisible, such as with “CRT” bans. These bills are part of a coordinated, national effort at work in New England, too. In Maine, for instance, we have already opposed 18 different bills targeting education, with more to come, while also supporting counselor/social worker to student confidentiality and rulemaking addressing discrimination. In Rhode Island, we’ve seen at least nine such bills. Fortunately, the efforts of GLAD, our state partners, pro-equality legislators, and community members have been able to slow or stop most of these bills in New England, but we are not done and cannot let our guard down.

These bills run the gamut. Some attempt to police what books are available in school or classroom libraries, stifling student learning and denying them the opportunities for discovery and to see themselves and their families and friends represented. Many of the bills attempt to micromanage curriculum, even when already locally approved with public input, by insisting that teachers must accommodate parental preferences and allow broad opt-outs from whatever a particular parent might believe is “divisive” or against their values. Some would ban schools from using different names, nicknames, or pronouns at school and require monitoring of students for “changes” that must then be reported to parents, with parents obtaining a private right to sue to enforce this vague requirement. Still others aim to censor discussion of any topics related to race or sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity, restricting students’ ability to learn a fuller picture of American history and values, develop critical thinking skills, and learn to take their places in our democracy. In the end, schools are student-centered for a reason: Schools are for young people. The information parents want is also largely available from the school or school system website, the child’s school account, from talking with teachers and state, and from existing information required to be provided to parents under state and federal laws.

In addition to making the case to the people’s representatives as they seek to make or change laws, GLAD, along with the ACLU of NH, Disability Rights Center — NH, and the National Educators Association — NH chapter, is in court continuing to challenge a related New Hampshire law that vaguely defines race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity as “divisive concepts,” discouraging teachers from saying anything that might imperil their teaching licenses, all to the detriment of students. School district DEI professionals in New Hampshire report that the law is causing confusion and fear for teachers, stifling teaching on essential topics, and creating greater isolation for students. A federal judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit in January because of its inevitable connection to teacher censorship, saying, “Given the severe consequences that teachers face if they are found to have taught or advocated a banned concept, plaintiffs have pleaded a plausible claim that the amendments are unconstitutionally vague.”

Beyond restrictions on class materials and discussion, another dangerous trend is gaining a troubling amount of traction this year – bills and targeted litigation aimed at forcing schools to “out” LGBTQ+ students and cutting them off from the support of trusted adults they rely on at school.

In New England, we’ve directly contested these bills in Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire and are working with our state partners to stop them.

In New Hampshire, GLAD and our coalition partners narrowly but soundly defeated such a bill in May. SB 272 purposely singled out transgender and gender nonconforming youth to be surveilled and reported on by school staff, including any request to use a different name or pronoun, change in a student’s gender presentation, or attendance at a GSA meeting. With the bill’s defeat, New Hampshire has affirmed that schools should be a space of safety for LGBTQ+ students and that they can have conversations with their families when they are ready to do so. In Maine, we are also working with partners and providing extensive legal background explaining how these bills, if passed, would disrupt or deny the legally acknowledged obligations of schools to manage their learning environments and of students’ rights to equal educational opportunity. In Rhode Island, we have likewise joined with partners to speak out against several bills that threaten schools and teachers with penalties for not complying with vague requirements to allow virtually any individual parent to dictate school lesson plans, as well as bills aimed at removing teachers’ and school staff’s ability to support LGBTQ+ students in school.

To be clear, we support parents and their involvement in schools. A strong parent-child relationship is a lifelong protective factor. But these bills use the language of “parents’ rights” to impose specific parental preferences on how public schools operate their day-to-day activities and meet their obligation to support and provide an equal education for all students.

Two non-binary students doing work together in class
Photo by The Gender Spectrum Collection

We are also working to defend positive school policies in the courts. GLAD and ACLU-NH filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the New Hampshire Supreme Court in Doe v. Manchester School District, supporting a lower court ruling upholding the district’s policy of supporting transgender students. That policy includes referring to students by their requested names and pronouns and maintaining student privacy when appropriate. Our brief notes the school’s legal obligation to ensure students can learn no matter who they are and their right to control the learning environment to do so. The brief also cites substantial research showing that a positive school climate that fosters a sense of safety, belonging, and respect is optimal for learning. Lawsuits like these show that some parents, despite asserting parental rights, seek to have the school insert itself into family relationships with “outing” and reporting to parents on student behavior at school.

As GLAD Attorney Chris Erchull explained, “Forcing schools to disclose information against a student’s wishes takes away a trusted source of support from transgender and gender nonconforming students and shuts down the opportunity for an important, voluntary conversation between the child and parent when the student is ready.” GLAD is also engaged in the pending 1st Circuit case, Foote v. Ludlow Public Schools, raising many of the same issues. Read our Ludlow brief here.

GLAD submitted a friend-of-the-court brief with the Massachusetts Superintendents Association in the District Court, which dismissed the case in December. GLAD will continue its involvement at the First Circuit, where the question remains whether the parents have adequately alleged facts to make a legal claim so that they can proceed with the litigation and try to prove their case of a violation of their rights. All rulings in this legal area are consequential. Parents and schools can and should be natural allies when it comes to ensuring students are safe, protected, and able to learn what they need to succeed in life. The current wave of attacks on schools, libraries, and LGBTQ+ students is only creating false conflicts between parents and schools at a time when we should all be focused on ensuring that every young person, including LGBTQ+ youth, can learn and thrive in a safe environment while at school.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2023 GLAD Briefs newsletter. Read more.


Healthcare Bans are an Attack on Our Community’s Well-being, Decision-making, and Freedom

“Taking away our opportunity to help our daughter live a healthy and happy life is cruel and unfair.”

The quotes on this page are all from Florida parents GLAD represents in Doe v. Ladapo challenging a policy, first enacted by the state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine codified in SB 254, that bans them from meeting essential healthcare needs for their transgender children. GLAD’s Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights, Jennifer Levi, was in federal court in Tallahassee on May 19 asking the judge to halt the ban and stop the unimaginable cruelty and distress these families face because they can’t access the healthcare they need.

In the ongoing campaign against LGBTQ+ rights, extremist forces are pushing for discriminatory legislation that specifically targets vulnerable members of our community, particularly LGBTQ+ youth and their families. One of the most alarming aspects of this campaign is the banning and, in some cases, criminalizing of safe and effective medical care for transgender youth.

“This ban puts me and other parents in the nightmare position of not being able to help our child when they need us most.”

As of May 2023, at least 19 states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia) have implemented these policies.

These bans disregard scientific evidence, representing an unjustified intrusion into personal and family medical decision-making. They contradict established guidelines based on extensive clinical research and are endorsed by esteemed medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Doctors with expertise in treating the distress experienced by transgender youth unable to live authentically, as well as parents who witness the positive transformation in their transgender children when supported, widely criticize these bans.

“Having the resources and support to make the best decisions for our daughter’s wellbeing has been so important for our family. We just want to do what’s right for our kid.”

GLAD is challenging the bans in Florida and Alabama, arguing that they unlawfully deprive parents of their right to make decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of transgender youth by denying them essential, doctor-recommended healthcare.

In fact, LGBTQ+ legal organizations are contesting these policies in nearly every state where they have been passed.

Encouragingly, even judges in the most conservative communities have recognized the unconstitutional nature of these bans, which infringe upon parents’ rights to make informed healthcare choices for their children and unfairly target transgender adolescents. Although litigation is ongoing, judges have issued temporary injunctions against these bans in Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma and permanently blocked the ban in Arkansas.

Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights Jennifer Levi and Human Rights Campaign Litigation Director Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver
Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights Jennifer Levi and Human Rights Campaign Litigation Director Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver

Last spring, GLAD helped secure a federal judge’s ruling in Alabama that blocked implementing the state’s criminal ban while the case moves forward. As we prepare for an anticipated trial, this injunction remains in effect.

In Florida, our motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the ban became more urgent when the state legislature passed SB 254 at the end of the session. This new law codifies the Boards of Medicine bans and adds criminal and civil penalties.

On June 6, a federal judge issued a strong ruling that blocks the enforcement of SB 254 and the Boards of Medicine rules for the plaintiff families, ensuring that their children can continue to access needed care.

The ruling also makes it clear that the law is unconstitutional and that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail once the Court issues a final ruling on the merits. It says powerfully that the ban violates parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children and violates the equal protection rights of transgender people by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare.

Halting and overturning these harmful laws is crucial to safe-guarding access to essential healthcare and ensuring that parents of transgender youth can continue to provide guidance and support. It is also vital in countering the spread of misinformation, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and attacks on scientific knowledge and bodily autonomy, which aim to hinder progress.

“Our daughter is a happy, confident child, but this ban takes away our right to provide her with recommended healthcare.”

While LGBTQ+ community members and advocates are diligently working to halt these laws and provide support through mutual aid and information sharing, several states are also taking positive steps. As of May 2023, ten states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington— and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that protect transgender people’s access to healthcare. These laws include provisions to shield patients and providers from punitive measures in other states.

Additionally, bills addressing similar concerns are pending in Maine, Oregon, and elsewhere. These efforts reflect the widespread recognition of these healthcare bans for what they truly are: attacks on science, our families, our autonomy over our bodies, and our freedom and dignity. All of us — LGBTQ+ youth, adults, parents and families, supporters, and sensible policymakers — must join forces to reverse this backward trend and instead propel our nation toward greater liberation for all.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2023 GLAD Briefs newsletter. Read more.