HRC is celebrating the passage of 10 pro-equality state bills during the first half of 2018. At the peak of legislative activity this year, 43 state legislatures were in session. Since the beginning of the year, HRC has been tracking more than 112 anti-LGBTQ bills and 185 pro-equality bills. As the November elections approach, only 16 state legislatures remain in session.

Of the 10 pro-equality bills passed by state legislatures, six have already been signed into law and four await gubernatorial action.

Four of the 10 bills are designed to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” which has been proven to pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. Every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association, condemn the practice.

In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy signed SB 13, a bill allowing transgender inmates to be housed according to their identity and ensuring they will be searched by officers matching their gender, have their pronouns respected and have access to clothing and toiletries matching their gender.

Last Friday in Hawaii, Governor David Ige signed SB 270, an anti-conversion therapy bill.

Earlier this month, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed SB 1028, a similar anti-conversion therapy bill.

In April, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed SB 2371, a broad criminal justice reform bill that includes a provision prohibiting the placement of LGBTQ prisoners in solitary confinement solely due to their identity.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed H. 333, a bill requiring a single-user restroom to be identified by a sign that marks the facility as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5722 in March, making it the first anti-conversion therapy bill to become law in 2018.

In New Hampshire, two pro-LGBTQ bills await action by Governor Chris Sununu: HB 587, an anti-conversion therapy bill, and HB 1319, a non-discrimination bill for transgender people. HB 1319 would update the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces to explicitly include protections based on gender identity.

In New Jersey, two bills related to gender markers and gender identity on birth and death certificates were passed and sent to Governor Phil Murphy. S. 478, a birth certificate gender marker update bill, modernizes the process for updating one's birth certificate gender marker by removing the current surgical requirement. S.493, a death certificate gender identity bill, clarifies that the sex of the decedent is to be recorded on their death certificate so as to accurately reflect the decedent’s gender identity. It also creates a process for accurately determining and recording the gender identity of the decedent if conflicting information exists.

Unfortunately, two anti-LGBTQ bills have also been signed into law so far this year. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed SB 1140, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations -- including adoption and foster care agencies -- to turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer signed SB 284, which is a license to discriminate with taxpayer funds against prospective LGBTQ foster or adoptive parents, single parents, or other qualified families.

HRC continues to work with partners, allies and advocates across the country to pass pro-equality legislation and defeat anti-LGBTQ bills.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For transgender people who want to serve in the military, the law itself is in transition. The future careers of thousands of service members are still in limbo after a federal judge temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s effort to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

New Mexico Navy veteran and transwoman Penn Baker is disappointed that there is still a fight over who can and can't serve their country.

Baker is the president of the New Mexico chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights. After leaving the Navy in 1970, Baker never stopped fighting for her peers who for years had to hide their true selves if they wanted to openly enlist.

"We fought desperately to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,'" Baker said. "We've been successful with that, and now we're fighting desperately to fight transgender personnel to serve openly."

Baker worked on a nuclear submarine in the Navy from 1963 until 1970s during the Vietnam War. During that time, Baker hid her true gender identity under the surface.

"Why would we disgrace those people if they're willing to serve our country?" Baker said.

Hawaii has become the 12th state to ban dangerous “ex-gay” conversion therapy. Governor David Ige signed legislation to outlaw the fraudulent practice Friday afternoon.

The usually religion-based scam claims to be able to change people’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We’re seeing significant momentum to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, and The Trevor Project calls on even more states to join Hawaii in banning this barbaric practice,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director, said. The Trevor Project is the leading organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT youth.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all condemned the practice as dangerous to the mental and physical health of LGBT people.

“There are currently more than 700,000 survivors nationally, and an estimated 77,000 teenagers across the country will be subjected to conversion therapy over the next five years,” said NCLR Born Perfect Strategist Mathew Shurka.

“As a survivor, I know how harmful conversion therapy can be, and I could not be happier that Hawaii has taken this important step to protect the health and safety of its LGBTQ youth from this terrible practice.”

Hawaii joins California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Maryland and New Hampshire legislators have passed bans that are awaiting their respective governor’s signature.

The brains of transgender individuals share characteristics with those of the gender they identify with, according to new research.

Researchers used MRI scans to identify how adolescents’ brains responded to a pheromone that men and women are known to react to differently.

The brains of transgender people who identified as women reacted more like female brains, and transgender people who identified as men had brains that responded more like males than their biological sex.

There are sex differences in the brain at the structural level and also how male and female brains perform certain tasks, said neuroscientist Julie Bakker of the University of Liege in Belgium via email. Bakker’s research “found that adolescents with gender dysphoria had brain activity patterns very similar to their desired/experienced gender,” she wrote.

“At the moment, most available evidence suggests that it is a developmental effect, taking place before birth, but of course, we cannot rule out any effects of sex hormones later in life.”

Bakker’s study was small: looking at only about 150 individuals. As such, its findings should be interpreted with caution. Doug VanderLaan, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, is currently working on a similar study at a larger scale, which has yet to publish results.

“This research area is still very much in its early days,” he said. “There have been relatively few studies and the methods have not been consistent. Consequently, there are few findings regarding specific brain areas that have been shown to be reliable and more research is needed.”

However, he said, across studies so far, it has generally been the case that the brains of transgender people share certain resemblances to those of their identified gender.

Bakker suggests that her research could be used to inform how young people with gender dysphoria are treated. “Although more research is needed, we now have evidence that sexual differentiation of the brain differs in young people with GD (gender dysphoria), as they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender,” she said.

With more research, “We will then be better equipped to support these young people, instead of just sending them to a psychiatrist and hoping that their distress will disappear spontaneously.”

VanderLaan thinks it’s a little too soon to jump to that conclusion.

A federal court in Virginia ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen who's been fighting for the right to use the school bathroom that aligns with his gender identity.

The first time Gavin Grimm was on this program, he was a high school junior. He's transgender. And he sued the school board after they prohibited him from using the boy's restroom at his public school in Gloucester, Va.


GAVIN GRIMM: I'm not unisex. The alternative facility was a unisex bathroom. I'm not unisex. I'm a boy. And there's no need for that kind of ostracization.

SHAPIRO: Gavin's case has spent four years in the courts. And in the meantime, he graduated from high school and became a nationally recognized LGBT figure. This week, a federal judge in Virginia ruled in his favor, saying the school board discriminated against Grimm on the basis of sex.

Gavin Grimm, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

GRIMM: Thank you very much. I'm happy to be here.

SHAPIRO: How did it feel to get this ruling?

GRIMM: It was, of course, exciting. We had known for a while that it could come any day now. But I didn't have any expectations for what we might hear. And so to get positive news was just really fantastic.

SHAPIRO: Any word on whether the school board intends to appeal?

GRIMM: I don't know whether or not the school board intends to appeal. But we'll keep fighting if we have to.

SHAPIRO: The judge has ordered you and the school board to have settlement talks. You're no longer a student at the school. So what are you fighting for in this case?

GRIMM: The court case graduated from being about my interests almost as soon as it started. I hope that this will set a positive legal precedent that will aid other trans students in guiding their schools to better support them.

SHAPIRO: Gloucester, Va., where you grew up, is a relatively rural, relatively conservative part of the state. Do you think this case changed things in Gloucester even before this ruling, just by having the debate?

GRIMM: I don't know if I changed many hearts or minds in Gloucester. But the fact that I even was able to have a court case speaks volumes to the progress we have made in this nation. And the fact that we can have this discourse, the fact that we can have this debate - no matter how ugly it can be - speaks to the change that's coming.

SHAPIRO: You brought this case when Barack Obama was president. And now President Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, says the Education Department will no longer investigate civil rights complaints from transgender students regarding bathroom access. Yesterday, she testified to the House Education and Workforce Committee, and she said courts have given conflicting rulings. Here's part of her testimony.


BETSY DEVOS: Until the Supreme Court opines or until this body takes action, I am not going to make up law from the Department of Education.

SHAPIRO: Gavin Grimm, what do you think this means for a student like you who is a few years younger, coming through high school now?

GRIMM: I think that there is no ambiguity to the fact that this is explicitly dangerous to the lives of trans students. Saying that you will not investigate claims about discrimination is saying that you don't care about them, you don't think that they deserve to be protected and that you don't recognize, as well, their unique concerns and challenges in the school environment.

SHAPIRO: Explain what you mean when you say this is explicitly dangerous. What specifically is the danger?

GRIMM: It's explicitly dangerous to not protect trans youth in schools because they are an incredibly vulnerable minority. The suicide attempt rates are astronomically higher than the general population. And to feel completely alone and without options and to feel that helpless and unheard - I can't even imagine what detrimental effect that that can have on the ability for trans youth in schools to feel safe.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about your next step. I know you took some time off after you graduated from high school. You've moved to the West Coast. And you're going to start college in the fall?

GRIMM: Yes, I am working in the world of activism. I've been traveling to get my message out. And I'm also, at the same time, preparing to become a student again.

SHAPIRO: Well, Gavin Grimm, good luck in your next adventure in college. Thanks for talking to us again.

GRIMM: Of course. Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: Gavin Grimm is a transgender teen who sued his school board for the right to use the boy's restroom. And yesterday, a federal judge ruled in his favor.

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