Alyssa Invernizzi reports on a webinar organized by the US National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) entitled:" Legislative Update: Status of LGBTQ Rights Due to Recent State Laws Across the U.S.
Full webinar recording can be found here.
Conducted on June 30th, the last day of pride month, the NAWJ hosted a webinar analyzing the events and legislation impacting LGBTQ+ persons and youth in the United States. Hon. Ann Breen-Greco from the National Association of Women Judges was the moderator. Considering recent US Supreme Court decisions, it is insightful to remember that pride is not only a celebration but a call to action. NAWJ introduced five speakers to analyze how members of the LGBTQ community are having difficulty enjoying the rights the country promises.
Firstly, Kylar Broadus Esq. provided his perspective on life as a transgender male. Two issues that are concerning are medical care and freedom of expression. Luckily, many more state allies are learning about these medical procedures. Unfortunately, topics such as freedom of expression through labels, specific patient autonomy requests, parental rights, etc., are typically "divide and conquer" subjects. Being not only transgender but also a member of the black community, Broadus revealed that the law industry would never be easy with such characteristics. At IAWJ, our goal is to promote inclusivity across all platforms, and we want to ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ obtain the rights that they deserve as citizens. It's important that we continue seeking opportunities for these topics to be addressed.
Jon Harris Maurer, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida, discussed the seven bills that were recently passed in Florida that legislate on the LGBTQ community. These bills have strong censorship and tend to silence communities, especially the one known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill. The harm from this bill essentially established a "prohibition" on any instruction until 8th grade about LGBTQ/sexual activities. The fear it creates strikes especially within LGBTQ teachers who cannot have their partner pictured on their desk, cannot have "safe space" stickers in the classroom, and cannot use pronouns or ask their students to use/say them. The crazy thing about this is that anyone in a town, even adults who do not have children in the educational system, can suggest banning books or changing health and safety standards.
Another concerning subject matter is custody agreements. A recent bill from Florida can grant the courts emergency jurisdiction over children subjected to gender-affirming care. Florida legislation claims that they are protecting children with this legislation. Having some infringements on medical care prevents them from making life-altering decisions. Although they are claiming to protect young children with these laws, Florida is said to have those same infringements on adults as well. This does not affirm their diversity in gender identity. There should be a difference, especially for those over eighteen.
Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver then talks about the national declaration of emergency in anti-LGBTQ legislation and the hateful rhetoric utilized on social media. These recurring themes force families who support the community to move out of states that approve anti-LGBTQ legislation. She related these to the Jim Crow days because so many people are left in the dark regarding the human rights to which they are entitled. Although these bans have brought legal challenges and seven states have judicial conjunction relief, we have yet to see any progress. Weaver then discusses the bias against transgender youth in the legislature. The rhetoric used was said to be hostile and inappropriate. Weaver suggests this to be unconstitutional and that we can only get people to care about these issues by endorsing the Hate Crime Prevention Act. She reiterated that an attack on some of us is an attack on all of us. By not addressing these issues now, the LGBTQ+ community may never rightfully know what human rights they are accustomed to.
Adding on to this, Hon. Vickie Henry details how the LGBTQ community feels attacked. This is a prominent issue that should concern lawyers and judges because they should remain mindful of this due to behaviors in and out of work. Providing a place of respect and guaranteeing active listening through hearings will allow those who are a part of the community to feel heard. Especially now, it has been advised that gender-neutral language should become more common until pronouns are introduced in the courtroom. Utilizing this approach, especially women judges, can create a peaceful and respectful environment and promotes inclusive justice. Lastly, Jodi Clessattle mentions that being more respectful of gender expression, especially nonbinary inclusion, goes along with this. Organizations such as the Trevor Project clarified that using “they/them” in the singular is now grammatically acceptable.
Although recent laws have shed light on the anti-LGBTQ groups and legislatures in the US, the NAWJ wants to ensure judicial officers welcome LGBTQ people in the courtrooms and society with open support. The NAWJ will continue to draw attention to inequality in children's rights and the changes needed, so they can all get the human rights and freedom they deserve. At IAWJ, we recognize the identities of all people on our journey to promote peace and inclusive justice. With the knowledge obtained from this webinar, we want to continue driving this positive change.