Companies like State Farm and McDonalds say they support LGBT rights, but their franchisees and agents sometimes have other ideas

McDonalds
A McDonalds’ restaurant sign is seen as the restaurant is closed due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on April 19, 2020 in Southampton, England.

  • Insider investigated the campaign finance records of Arkansas lawmakers who sponsored anti-transgender legislation.
  • Several visibly LGBT-friendly companies, their agents, and franchise owners gave money to the laws’ sponsors.
  • McDonald’s franchise owners and State Farm agents donated a combined $107,000 to the Arkansas legislators.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The franchisees and agents of companies like McDonald’s and State Farm directed vast sums to legislators that backed some of the most anti-LGBT legislation passed this year.

Arkansas was one of several states across the US that enacted legislation restricting trans women from playing on women’s sports teams during the 2021 legislative session and was the only state to pass legislation that aims to remove access to medical care and punish those who treat trans youth.

Insider pored through campaign finance records from the Arkansas Secretary of State for the 76 members of the Arkansas legislature who sponsored House Bill 1570 or Senate Bill 354. We then digitized the records to identify key corporate supporters and found that several corporations that position themselves as LGBT allies have agents, employees, and franchise owners that donated to the sponsors of Arkansas legislation using their company’s name and branding since 2018.

State Farm Insurance, for example, frequently takes part in local Pride Month events and proudly touts the company’s support on its website. State Farm public affairs specialist Michal Brower told Insider that the company does not donate directly to state legislators.

“State Farm does have a Federal PAC (SFF PAC), which allows our employees and agents to collectively provide funds to individual candidates across party lines,” Brower said. “The SFF PAC does not provide contributions to state-level candidates or legislators in Arkansas, past or present.”

But while the company itself did not send money to Arkansas legislators, several of its individual agents donated $72,000 through a separate political action committee: the Arkansas State Farm Association PAC. The two surviving PAC officers did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Much like State Farm, McDonald’s also proudly positions itself as a supportive ally of the LGBT+ community through various digital campaigns and media sponsorships, but McDonald’s franchise owners donated a combined $35,000 to 52 of the sponsors of the anti-trans legislation since 2018 through the McDonald’s Local Owner Operators of Arkansas PAC.

The company promotes on its Diversity and Inclusion webpage that it received a perfect score in each of the last five years on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. McDonald’s did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

LGBT advocates told Insider that corporate support on Pride Month is inadequate if the company continues to finance the sponsors of deleterious legislation.

“Corporations can’t celebrate Pride with us in June and expect us to look the other way if they fund anti-LGBTQ campaigns, legislators, and activist groups,” GLAAD Rapid Response Manager Mary Emily O’Hara told Insider. “Being a corporate ally means speaking up for what’s right and helping fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination all year long. It’s not just throwing a rainbow on some packaging one month out of the year.”

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Department of Veterans Affairs ‘moving ahead’ to provide gender-affirming surgery to transgender veterans: report

Denis McDonough
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough speaks during a press briefing at the White House, March 4, 2021.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will modify its healthcare policy to cover gender-affirming surgery for veterans who are transgender, CNN first reported.

A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed the news to CNN. The agency did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Saturday.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough is expected to make the announcement at a Pride month event at the Orlando Vet Center in Florida on Saturday, the spokesperson told CNN.

The announcement will mark the first step in what could be a lengthy process that will involve making changes to existing federal policy.

“There are several steps to take, which will take time,” McDonough prepared remarks state, according to the outlet. “But we are moving ahead, methodically, because we want this important change in policy to be implemented in a manner that has been thoroughly considered to ensure that the services made available to Veterans meet VA’s rigorous standards for quality health care.”

There are about 134,000 transgender veterans in the US, according to an estimate from the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Gender-affirming surgery has “been proven effective at mitigating serious health conditions, including suicidality, substance abuse, and dysphoria,” a VA Department spokesperson told CNN.

“We are taking the first necessary steps to expand VA’s care to include gender confirmation surgery – thus allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough is expected to say later Saturday, according to CNN.

Gender-affirming surgery includes procedures that make a person’s “physical body matches their gender identity,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. Procedures included facial reconstructive surgery, “top” surgery, and “bottom” surgery.

Just one gender-affirming surgery, like vaginoplasty or “bottom” surgery for a trans woman, can cost over $50,000, as Insider previously reported.

As CNN reported, the current VA health insurance package allows trans people to seek mental health counseling and to receive hormone therapy but it does not pay for gender-affirming surgeries.

McDonough in February ordered a review of the agency’s policies relating to trans people to ensure “transgender Veterans and employees do not face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and expression.”

The Trump administration sought to ban transgender people from serving in the US Military, though the Biden administration rescinded that policy in January.

“Transgender veterans deserve equal access to medically necessary and life-saving healthcare, including gender confirmation surgery,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement Saturday. “This news is not only an overdue victory for transgender veterans, but the latest move from Sec. McDonough and the VA in affirming LGBTQ veterans.”

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New Yorkers who don’t identify as male or female can use ‘X’ to designate their gender on driver’s licenses and other government documents, new bill says

Gay pride flags on a fence at the Stonewall National Monument in New York City.
Gay pride flags decorate the Stonewall National Monument at Christopher Park in front of the Stonewall Inn on June 02, 2021 in New York City.

  • New York lawmakers passed Friday a bill to allow a third option for a person’s gender on official documents.
  • People who do not identify as either male or female would be able to mark their gender as “X.”
  • The Biden administration hinted previously it could adopt a similar policy at the national level.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lawmakers in the New York State Assembly on Friday passed a bill that would allow New Yorkers who do not identify as male or female to mark their gender as “X” on official state documents, including their driver’s license and birth certificate.

The bill previously passed the State Senate.

“The provisions in this bill will make life safer, reduce the stigma and affirm the identities for so many of our friends and neighbors,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a Democrat representing Manhattan who sponsored the legislation, according to the New York Daily News

The bill, known as The Gender Recognition Act, now heads to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. If signed, the bill will allow transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people in New York to alter their gender on state documents and identification that matches so it matches their gender identity, as the Daily News reported.

According to the bill, New Yorkers who seek to change their gender identity would no longer be required to provide medical evidence to change their gender designation on state documents. The bill would also eliminate the requirement that legal name changes be listed in a local newspaper.

Cuomo’s office did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment on Saturday when asked if he planned to sign the legislation.

As CNN reported, if signed, New York would become the 25th state in the US to allow some sort of gender-neutral identifier on state documents.

The federal government has hinted that it could soon make a similar change.

A White House official February told The 19th in February that the Biden administration was considering making the change to federal documents, including passports. A group of congressional lawmakers in May pressured President Joe Biden to add the “X” option, as The 19th reported.

“We believe that a gender-neutral marker (“X”) should be available on all federal IDs, and that accurate gender markers should be accessible using a self attestation standard,” a letter to Biden sent last month read, according to the outlet.

The letter, which asked Biden to make the change by issuing an executive order, was authored by Rep. Ro Khanna of California and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and signed by 20 other congressional Democrats, according to The 19th.

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12 of the richest LGBTQ people in the world

Wealthy LGBTQ figures
Tim Cook and Giorgio Armani are billionaires.

  • Some famous LGBTQ figures are worth billions after inheriting empires or building companies.
  • In 2020, Apple CEO Tim Cook officially became a billionaire.
  • Giorgio Armani’s is worth $8.1 billion, while Domenico Dolce is worth $1.6 billion.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
David Geffen, the co-founder of DreamWorks, is worth $9.9 billion, according to Forbes.

David Geffen
David Geffen.

Starting as a Hollywood talent agent, Geffen made the foundation of his fortune when he created record labels Asylum Records, Geffen Records, and DGC Records. In 1994, he created the DreamWorks film studio with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Geffen also has a large real estate portfolio and a $2 billion art collection, according to Business Insider

In 2007, Out magazine called Geffen the most powerful gay man in the country.

Fashion designer Giorgio Armani’s fortune is about $8.1 billion.

Giorgio Armani 2020
Giorgio Armani.

Armani began his career in the military after leaving medical school. In the ’70s, he started designing menswear clothing, but his career really took off when he started designing for Richard Gere in 1980. Since then, Armani’s brand has expanded into an empire, which includes accessories, interior design, and hotels.

The famously private designer spoke about his sexuality in a 2000 interview with Vanity Fair, saying, “I have had women in my life. And sometimes men.”


PayPal’s co-founder Peter Thiel is worth $5 billion, according to Forbes.

peter thiel
Peter Thiel.

In 1999, Thiel co-founded PayPal, which was meant to be a simple way to exchange money via devices. He was CEO of the company up until eBay acquired PayPal, and his stake in the company was said to be worth $55 million. Thiel was also an early investor of Facebook, and he founded a data analytics company, Palantir, which is valued at $20 billion, according to Forbes

He now lives with his husband, Matt Danzeisen, in Los Angeles.

Jon Stryker is an heir to a medical equipment company. Forbes reports his net worth at $4.3 billion.

Jon Stryker
Jon Stryker.

Stryker’s grandfather founded Stryker Corp., which is a medical supply company that sold $14.9 billion in equipment in 2019, according to Forbes. One of the heirs to the family fortune, Stryker is a philanthropist, donating large sums of his money to charities and scholarships. So far, he has given away $585 million. 

Stryker also founded the Arcus Foundation, which fights for LGBTQ rights and ape conservation. 

Norwegian businessman Stein Erik Hagen is worth $2.7 billion, according to Forbes.

Stein Erik Hagen, right.
Stein Erik Hagen.

Hagen founded the supermarket chain Rimi with his father in the 1970s and is a major shareholder of the consumer goods conglomerate Orkla. He was Norway’s seventh wealthiest person in 2020, according to Norwegian business magazine Kapital.

Hagen, who is bisexual, publicly came out on one of Norway’s biggest chat shows, Skavaln, in 2015, saying he only came to understand his sexuality “well into adulthood,” The Local reported.

Jennifer Pritzker, a hotel heiress, is the only openly transgender billionaire in the world.

Jennifer Pritzker
Jennifer Pritzker.

A former lieutenant in the Army, Pritzker inherited part of the Hyatt hotel fortune, giving her a net worth of $2 billion, according to Forbes.

She came out as transgender in 2013 without much fanfare, but she made headlines in 2017 when President Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Before this, Pritzker supported Trump and donated large sums to his campaign, but the ban prompted her to support Biden in his bid for the presidency. 

Fashion designer Domenico Dolce is worth $1.6 billion.

Domenico Dolce
Domenico Dolce.

After meeting in a club, Dolce and Stefano Gabbana started a fashion brand together in 1985. The company’s signature animal print made waves at fashion events and even caught the attention of Madonna, solidifying Dolce & Gabbana’s place in fashion history. 

His business partner Stefano Gabbana is also worth $1.6 billion.

Dolce and Gabbana
Stefano Gabbana.

Dolce and Gabbana ended their personal relationship in 2003 but still own the company and design together.

In 2020, Apple CEO Tim Cook officially became a billionaire.

tim cook apple logo
Tim Cook.

Cook became CEO of Apple in 2011 after the death of its founder, Steve Jobs. A decade later, the company is nearing a market value of nearly $2 trillion, making Cook a billionaire.

He is now worth $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Despite his billionaire status, he lives in a relatively modest home in Palo Alto.

He came out as gay in 2014

Fashion designer Michael Kors used to be worth $1 billion, but today, his fortune is estimated to be $600 million.

Michael Kors
Michael Kors.

Kors began his fashion design company in his mother’s basement in the ’80s and turned it into an empire. In 2011, he took the company public when it was valued at $3.5 billion. In 2004, he became a superstar when he became a judge on “Project Runway.” Ten years later, Kors became a billionaire. 

Today, his fortune is a bit smaller, but he calls downtown New York City home with his husband, Lance Le Pere.

Elton John has been in the music industry for decades, earning a fortune that’s reportedly near $500 million.

elton john
Elton John.

John began his music career in England and became known for his flamboyant and outrageous costumes. Quickly, he became a cultural phenomenon, launching his decade-spanning career. He still tours today and has sold over 300 million records, according to The Times

Plus, John has been with his partner, David Furnish, for nearly three decades.

Ellen DeGeneres’ net worth is estimated at $370 million, according to Forbes.

Ellen Degeneres show
Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres began her career as a standup comedian and eventually landed a successful sitcom titled “Ellen” in the late ’90s. During that time, she came out as a lesbian, and she was blacklisted from Hollywood. In 2003, she made her return as a daytime talk show host, although the show will end after its 19th season airs in 2022.

She’s married to Portia de Rossi and they live in Los Angeles. 

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Massachusetts GOP chair refused calls from within his party to condemn a colleague who said she was ‘sickened’ a gay candidate adopted children

Massachusetts Statehouse
File: The Massachusetts State House in Boston in January 2019.

  • The chair of the Massachusetts GOP refused to ask a party leader to resign after she said she was “sickened” by a gay candidate.
  • Nearly every Republican in the state House of Representatives called on him to denounce her.
  • But in a letter last week, he said members of the GOP needed to stand up to the “far-left” and “cancel culture.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party on Friday refused to condemn or ask for the resignation of a GOP leader who said she was “sickened” by an openly gay congressional candidate adopting children with his husband.

In an email to other members of the state GOP, Deborah Martell, who is a member of the 80-person state GOP committee, said she was “sickened” by congressional candidate Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette.

“I heard he was a ‘married’ homosexual man, who adopted children. I was sickened to hear this,” Martell wrote in a May 15 e-mail, according to the Boston Globe.

Martell did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Saturday.

Sossa-Paquette, a Republican running for Massachusetts’ 2nd Congressional District, has two children, aged 19 and 10, with his husband Julian, according to NBC Boston.

When Sossa-Paquette confronted Martell about the email days later, she doubled down in an email also obtained by the Boston Globe.

“I am a Catholic who loves God and His Ten Commandments,” she wrote to Sossa-Paquette on May 19, according to the report. “I wish the best for every person in the world, including you! What sickened me was that you adopted children.

“Children deserve a mom and a dad. That’s how God designed marriage and the family,” she continued.

Sossa-Paquette said he reached out to Jim Lyons, the chairman of the state GOP, to ask him to condemn Martell’s comments but said Lyons told him he wouldn’t “get involved in inter-party politics,” according to NBC Boston.

Sossa-Paquette did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

According to the Globe, 29 of 30 Republicans in the state House of Representatives had on Friday called in a letter for Lyons to condemn Martell and ask for her resignation or resign himself. Lyons refused, instead imploring members of his own party in a statement to stand up to “censorship” and “cancel culture.”

“Members of the Massachusetts House Republican caucus are demanding that I force a woman of deep Catholic faith to resign from the Massachusetts Republican State Committee,” Lyons said in a statement. “I acknowledge that she wrote in a manner that was offensive. However, Massachusetts Republican Party bylaws are clear: freedom of speech and religious liberty are values that are unbending and uncompromising.”

He continued: “In the end, we must realize that the danger to our freedoms is real. We as Republicans must not act as the far-left wants us to.”

Martell likewise has refused calls for her resignation, which have come from across the state, including from GOP Gov. Charlie Baker and GOP Vice Chairman Tom Mountain, according to the Globe. Martell has made no public statement since the outlet first reported about the email on June 1.

The Massachusetts GOP did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Saturday.

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Walmart, McDonald’s, and Amazon are among companies celebrating Pride after donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians who voted against the Equality Act

Pride
Companies are celebrating Pride month, after donating to lawmakers voting against LGBTQ protections.

  • Companies like Amazon, Walmart, and McDonald’s are vocally supporting LGBTQ people this Pride Month.
  • The same three companies collectively donated $1 million-plus to lawmakers who voted against the Equality Act.
  • Companies donate to both Republicans and Democrats, even lawmakers they say they disagree with.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As brands take to Twitter to celebrate Pride, many of the same companies donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians who voted against expanded LGBTQ protections.

In February, the vast majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the Equality Act, which aims to expand LGBTQ protections. SEC filings show that some of the best-known companies in the US, including McDonald’s, Walmart, and Amazon, have donated significant sums to politicians who voted against the bill.

Most major companies donate to both parties via political action committees, historically giving more to Republicans. (Industry PACs supported by these organizations also donate to both parties, but tend to skew even further right.) In recent years, many companies’ PACs – including Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s – have moved toward a 50/50 split between Democrat and Republican donations.

Companies donate to politicians’ campaigns hoping to influence lawmakers on legislation that might impact business, from immigration to minimum wages.

As a result, these industry giants have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians who are pushing for legislation that protects LGBTQ rights, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians actively working to defeat the same bills.

Companies are increasingly caught between a desire to pursue bipartisan political alliances through donations and expectations that they support progressive social causes. Now, some are being forced to change their strategies.

Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s collectively donated over $1 million to lawmakers who voted against the Equality Act

pride
It is becoming common for companies to participated in Pride celebrations.

From 2019 to 2020, Walmart’s PAC donated $1.2 million to federal candidates, according to an Insider analysis of FEC data via the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations were exactly an even split – $596,000 to Republicans and $596,000 to Democrats. All but three Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the Equality Act, saying it could infringe on religious freedom. That means Walmart donated nearly $400,000 to politicians opposing the bill.

Meanwhile, the company’s Twitter avatar is currently rainbow hued, and the retailer is selling a collection of Pride merchandise. A Walmart spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Amazon has supported the Equality Act since 2015, with Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, writing in a post in February that “now is the time for federal law to protect LGBTQ+ Americans across the country.”

At the same time, the company’s PAC split donations from 2019 to 2020, donating $659,000 to Democratic candidates and $648,500 to Republicans. More than $460,000 of those donations went to politicians who voted against the Equality Act.

An Amazon spokesperson told Insider that the company “engages with policymakers and regulators on a wide range of issues that affect our business, customers, and employees.”

“That does not mean we agree with any individual or political organization 100 percent of the time on every issue, and this includes legislation that discriminates or encourages discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community,” the spokesperson continued.

Fast-food PACs have also donated to Republicans in the House of Representatives who oppose the Equality Act. From 2019 to 2020, McDonald’s PAC donated a total of $213,000 to lawmakers who voted against the bill. Earlier this week, the company tweeted: “We’re proud of you. And you should be proud of you, too.”

Companies are changing how they approach political donations

In 2021, more brands are openly supporting LGBTQ people and celebrating Pride on social media than ever before.

Simultaneously, the US is seeing an explosion of anti-trans bills. Lawmakers are not simply voting against expanding protections for LGBTQ people, they are trying to pass new laws that advocates say will harm vulnerable individuals.

“These are organized anti-transgender forces, people who are ideologically anti-transgender, who are trying to push this everywhere that they can,” trans advocate Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen told Insider in April. “So it’s coordinated, it’s deliberate, and it is all about using trans people and especially trans youth as a political football.”

Employees and customers increasingly expect companies to uphold progressive social values, including vocal support of LGBTQ people. But, companies typically don’t want to surrender the chance to engage with politicians on both sides of the aisle.

However, companies are being forced to change their practices. Walmart and Amazon paused donations to lawmakers who opposed certifying President Joe Biden’s win in January, following the Capitol insurrection. McDonald’s paused all political donations in January, and its PAC has not donated to any lawmakers since, according to FEC filings.

In 2021, it is increasingly difficult for companies to say they support a cause, while donating to politicians who vote for laws that indicate the opposite. Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown University professor, told Insider earlier this year that – in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests – brands like McDonald’s had assumed that tweeting support would satisfy most people.

“What they probably didn’t anticipate was we are at a moment where people ask for more,” Chatelain said. “They ask for more than donations. They ask for more than diversity-pipeline programs. They ask for more than skillful marketing. They actually ask for racial and economic justice.”

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Florida governor banned transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports on first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference in December 2020 at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday banning transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports in high school and college on the first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which was introduced by GOP state Sen. Travis Hutson in February, designates teams “on the basis of students’ biological sex at birth,” meaning transgender girls whose birth certificate says “male” as their biological sex are not allowed to participate in girls’ sports teams.

The law also expressly prohibits those whose “biological sex” on their birth certificate denotes male from participating in girls’ sports, but those whose “biological sex” is noted as female can play in boys’ sports.

When asked if there was a meaning behind signing the bill on June 1 ahead of its June 12 deadline, DeSantis said: “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness and women’s sports.” The legislation goes into effect on July 1.

“We believe in the state of Florida protecting the fairness and integrity of women’s athletics,” DeSantis said at an event at the Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville. “I can tell you that in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports.”

Supporters of the legislation say the act eliminates an unfair biological advantage by prohibiting transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports.

“We all know that men are stronger than women,” GOP state Sen. Kelli Stargel said at the Jacksonville event, which also featured a video of a track athlete who sued over transgender girls competing in high school girls’ sports.

Stargel, who championed the sports legislation, said in response: “When you’re looking at that video, it’s evident the woman, the transgender woman who competed, or self-identified woman, ran very differently than the others in the competition. It’s physiologically different. Men are stronger, they have bigger lung capacity, stronger muscles.”

Critics – including Stargel’s daughter Laura – said the legislation discriminates against transgender athletes and could have a negative impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Excluding transgender children from sports will exacerbate feelings of discrimination and severely impact their mental and physical health,” Laura Stargel wrote in an op-ed published in the Orlando Sentinel.

“I played sports all throughout middle, high school and college,” she added. “Not once did I stop to consider what gender my teammates were assigned at birth.”

Democratic lawmakers in the state also condemned DeSantis’ decision to sign the bill.

“This is yet another hate-driven attack from the governor and Republican legislators, and it’s insulting that they’ve staged this morning’s photo-op on the first day of Pride Month,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones said. “At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids.”

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who became Florida’s first openly gay Latinx legislator, tweeted in response: “Appalling. First day of LGBTQ Pride Month and @GovRonDeSantis signs SB 1028 which bans trans kids from school sports.”

“FHSAA has allowed trans kids to participate in FL since 2013 with ZERO problems,” Smith continued. “This fuels transphobia and puts vulnerable kids at risk for no good reason.”

The Senate passed the anti-transgender sports bill in April, and it initially had a deadline to be signed into law by DeSantis on June 12 – the same day as the five-year anniversary of the shooting at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, that left 49 people dead.

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee quietly signed a law that prohibits trans students and staff from using bathrooms or locker rooms that match their gender

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

  • Tennesee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that prohibits trans students and staff from using restrooms and changing rooms that match their gender.
  • The bill requires that communal school bathrooms and lockers be limited to those of the same “biological sex” at birth.
  • Schools must provide “reasonable accommodations” for students “unwilling or unable” to use the communal areas, according to the legislation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tennesee Gov. Bill Lee on Friday signed into law a bill that opens public schools up to lawsuits if they allow transgender students or staff to use bathrooms or locker room that matches their gender identity, the Advocate first reported.

Lee, a Republican, signed the bill Friday quietly without releasing a public statement, though he previously said he supported the legislation because it was a “smart approach to the challenge,” the Chatanooga Times Free Press reported.

A spokesperson for Lee did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Saturday.

The bill, House Bill 1233 or the “Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act,” says students and staff may only use a multi-occupancy restroom or changing room, like a locker room, with other people of the same “biological sex.”

The legislation defines sex as “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth,” meaning transgender girls would be required to use facilities meant for boys and transgender girls would be required to use facilities meant for boys.

The bill says that schools must provide “reasonable accommodation” for students “unwilling or unable” to use the bathroom that aligns with their biological sex at birth. These accommodations include “access to a single-occupancy restroom or changing facility, or use of an employee restroom or changing facility,” according to the legislation.

The Tennesee Accommodations for All Children Act allows schools to be sued for “all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered” should an individual come into contact with a person of the “opposite sex” in a communal bathroom or changing area or be required to share sleeping quarters with a person of the “opposite sex” during an overnight school trip.

As the Advocate noted, Lee this year signed two additional bills targeting LGBTQ youth, including a bill that bars trans students from playing on sports teams with other students of the same gender and a bill that requires schools to give a 30-day notice to parents before any lesson about sexual orientation or gender identity so parents may opt-out.

Organizations that champion the rights of LGBTQ people opposed the bill, including the Human Rights Campaign, which released a statement condemning Lee’s signing of the bill Friday.

“By advancing hateful legislation like HB 1233 (SB 1367), Tennessee Gov. Lee and state legislators are using their power to harm and further stigmatize trans youth in Tennessee,” said Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

He added: “The state of Tennessee is quickly becoming a national leader for anti-LGBTQ legislation, as lawmakers would rather discriminate against LGBTQ youth than focus on real problems facing Tennesseans. I want to be clear: Gov. Lee’s shameful decision to sign this baseless and discriminatory bill into law will harm the health and well-being of trans students in Tennessee by creating daily degrading experiences for them at school. These ‘Slate of Hate’ bills are unjustifiable and must stop.”

Republicans governors and GOP-led state legislatures across the US this year have targeted transgender youth, from bills that probit them from playing on sports teams with people of the same gender to more aggressive bills that deny them access to gender-affirming medical care.

The Tennesse law takes effect July 1.

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Caitlyn Jenner’s comments about trans girls in sports was used to justify a proposed ban in Kansas. It failed anyway.

Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner was praised last week by Republicans, but criticized by advocates for the transgender community, for saying trans girls shouldn’t play on girls’ teams.

  • Lawmakers in dozens of states across the US have proposed legislation targeting trans youth.
  • Five states have passed laws barring transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.
  • Kansas Rep. Stephanie Byers said these bills are conservatives’ response to growing LGBTQ acceptance.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An effort to ban trans kids from team sports failed this week in Kansas. After Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 55, which is nearly identical to dozens of bills being considered in state legislatures across the US, the State Senate didn’t have enough votes to override her decision.

Kansas Rep. Stephanie Byers told Insider that members of the state’s legislature had used recent comments from California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner to support their attempt to override the governor’s veto.

Monday’s vote came days after Jenner, the former Olympic athlete and reality star who came out publicly as a trans woman in 2015, said in an interview with TMZ she opposed transgender girls playing on sports teams with other girls.

Jenner, who in April launched a bid for California governor as part of the Republican effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, echoed statements made by conservatives in favor of blocking trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.

“This is a question of fairness,” she said Saturday. “That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.”

While her comments contradicted those she made to Outsports in a 2020 interview, they were in line with GOP leaders, including former President Donald Trump who previously ranted to conservatives about the unfairness of having trans girls compete.

“What coach, as an example, wants to recruit a young woman to compete if her record can easily be broken by somebody who was born a man?” Trump said at a CPAC conference in February during his first speech post-presidency.

He had added: “If this does not change, women’s sports as we know it will die.”

Republicans in state legislatures across the country have turned their attention toward transgender youth. More than two dozen states have considered or passed some sort of anti-trans legislation this year. Last month, lawmakers in North Dakota failed to override a veto of a bill similar to the anti-trans legislation blocked in Kansas.

Some state leaders have pushed for more aggressive legislation that would bar doctors from providing trans youth with medical care. Lawmakers in Arkansas enacted such a law when the Republican state legislature overrode the governor’s veto. While Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, called the bill “extreme” when he vetoed it, he signed into law another bill that banned trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.

In total, five states have so far passed legislation barring trans girls from participating on girls’ teams, including Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Byers said Jenner is wrong about the issue of fairness when it comes to these anti-trans bills, and doesn’t speak for the trans community.

As the Associated Press reported earlier this year, state lawmakers who have proposed bills targeting young trans athletes struggle to name instances where trans youth have caused issues on sports teams.

“First of all, we know that she does not speak for the entire trans community,” Byers said. “She, because of her celebrity status, was kind of placed in that position.

“And we’ve seen, over the years that she has brought some attention, especially to some of the struggles with trans youth, but oftentimes her celebrity status becomes the one thing she is most interested in,” she added.

Jenner, a registered Republican, openly supported Trump during his 2016 campaign for office, Byers pointed out. After Trump was elected, however, Jenner spoke out against him when he barred trans people from serving in the US military. In 2018, she penned an op-ed in The Washington Post admitting she’d been wrong about Trump.

“Her statement really just seems to be more of: I’m Caitlyn Jenner. Look at me, pay attention to me,” Byers said. “We’re talking about values of the trans community. She does not represent the thoughts and thinking of the majority of people who are transgender.”

Stephanie Byers
Educator of the Year honoree Stephanie Byers accepts her award at the GLSEN 2018 Respect Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 21, 2018 in New York City.

“No one can accuse her of being anti-trans or interested in causing suicides, or whatever accusation they had of me for that,” Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican, said Monday before the vote, according to The Associated Press.

In vetoing the bill on April 22, Kelly, a Democrat, wrote the “legislation sends a devastating message that Kansas is not welcoming to all children and their families, including those who are transgender – who are already at a higher risk of bullying, discrimination, and suicide.”

More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth have said they’ve considered suicide, according to a 2020 survey by The Trevor Project. And 86% of LGBTQ youth in the same survey said “recent politics have negatively impacted their well-being.”

But the bills also come at a time when there are more LGBTQ people in government in the US than ever before. Byers last year was part of a group of lawmakers across the US who won in a phenomenon dubbed the “rainbow wave” (it was more a “splash” than a wave.)

In total, according to a report from NBC News, more than 200 LGBTQ candidates celebrated victory on Election Day last year. Winners included the first out Black gay member of Congress and the first out nonbinary state legislator.

Byers, a former teacher and band director last year won her race by 11 percentage points. She said these types of bills targeting trans youth are part of the religious right’s reaction to clearly shifting societal attitudes and acceptance of members of the gay and trans communities.

First, conservatives opposed gay marriage. When the Supreme Court legalized that in 2015, they focused on bills that attempted to police the restrooms used by trans people, she said. Then, those failed.

“It’s this repeated pattern of attacking the LGBTQ community by the same group,” Byers said. “I think this is a reaction to seeing our country become more accepting of the LGBTQ community. For this other side – this conservative, religious-based side – these are their last digs at trying to stop the tide that’s going to keep coming on.”

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Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson says debate over the anti-trans bill he vetoed is about ‘the future’ of the GOP

Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at a news conference at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson said discussion about the bill targeting trans youth represented “the future” of the GOP.
  • While Hutchinson vetoed the bill, the Arkansas state legislature quickly overturned his decision.
  • Hutchinson has received blowback from Republicans, including Trump, for his veto.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said Sunday the bill targeting healthcare for transgender youth he vetoed last week went “too far” and said the debate over such legislation is key in determining the direction of the GOP.

Hutchinson has been targeted by his own party for vetoing the legislation, including by former President Donald Trump who in a statement called the Arkansas governor a “lightweight RINO.”

“‘Bye-bye Asa,’ that’s the end of him!” Trump said.

But in the interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Hutchinson appeared to laugh off the former president’s comments when confronted with the comments made by him and other Republicans.

“Any time you go against the grain, you’re going to get that kind of blowback,” Hutchinson told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Read: Every anti-trans bill US lawmakers introduced this year, from banning medication to jail time for doctors

As Insider’s Canela López previously reported, Hutchinson last week vetoed the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act,HB 1570. The Arkansas state legislature, dominated by Republicans, overrode Hutchinson’s veto the next day.

The law bans doctors from prescribing trans youth under the age of 18 puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or gender-affirming surgeries. Doctors who provide this care to patients could be charged with a felony under the law.

Advocates warned that the bill posed health risks to trans youth and set a dangerous precedent leading to more anti-trans legislation across the US.

“I think it’s healthy for our society, I think it’s helpful for our party to have that kind of vigorous debate about an important issue. And, to me, this is about the future of our party,” Hutchinson said Sunday.

“Are we going to be a narrow party that expresses ourself in intolerant ways, or are we going to be a broad-based party that shows conservative principles, but also compassion in dealing with some of the most difficult issues that parents face, that individuals face?” he added.

Hutchinson said the legislation went “too far” and said he needed to “remind his wonderful Republican colleagues” that the GOP platform prioritizes a “limited role of government.”

Hutchinson also this year signed another piece of anti-trans legislation into law, prohibiting trans girls from playing on girls sports teams. Advocates said the bill targeted a problem that doesn’t actually exist, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted.

Republicans have introduced a wide range of bills targeting trans rights this year in 28 states, Insider previously reported. Bills range from legislation restricting which sports teams trans youth can play on to ones that regulate medical care for trans people.

“I did sign the protection for girls in sports, which says biological males cannot compete on a girls team,” Hutchinson said. “To me, that’s a fundamental way of making sure girls sports can prosper.”

“These are tough areas, tough areas,” he added. “And what we have to do is, we can debate them on conservative principles, but let’s show compassion and tolerance and understanding as we do that. And that’s the simple message that I think is important for our party.”

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