What You Need to Know: Breaking Down Indiana Bills Impacting the LGBTQ+ Community

<p>On Feb. 20, 2023, people wait outside the State house in preparation for a hearing of HB 1608. </p>

On Feb. 20, 2023, people wait outside the State house in preparation for a hearing of HB 1608.

Editor’s Note: This article highlights only a few of the bills being presented in Indiana courts and does not address any bills impacting other states. The research and information presented is accurate to the time of publication and does not reflect developments after the publication date. The views expressed in this article are not reflective of the Campus Citizen nor IUPUI as a whole. 

Over the last few months, there have been a variety of House and Senate bills presented in Indiana courts related to the LBGTQ+ community. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently tracking 451 bills of this type across the country.

HB 1608, SB 480, SB 354, SB 12 and HB 1569 are five of the most widely covered bills in this legislative session. Throughout this process many people have vocalized their support or opposition for these bills. Here's what you need to know.

HB 1608 - “Human Sexuality Instruction”:

According to WRTV Indianapolis, HB 1608 is, “aimed to ban schools and third-party vendors from instruction for students from K-3 on sexual orientation, gender roles, identity and expression.”  

This bill passed through the House of Representatives into the Senate 65-29 on Feb. 23, 2023.

In addition, according to ABC7 Chicago, this bill would, “only apply to public schools and would prohibit them from disciplining teachers or staff who use ‘a name, pronoun, title, or other word to identify a student that is consistent with the student's legal name.’”

What this means is that there would be no consequences for deadnaming (i.e. referring to a non-binary or transgender person by the name they used prior to transitioning) students, intentionally using pronouns against what a student identifies as etc.

In response to this, ACLU Indiana’s Advocacy and Public Policy Director, Katie Blair stated in her testimony, “The Indiana House Education Committee just passed HB 1608, a horrific 'Don’t Say Gay' bill. This bill would censor discussion about LGBTQ people in schools and target students who choose not to conform to traditional norms about gender by forcing teachers and administrators to act as ‘gender police,’ outing transgender students without their consent, potentially putting them in danger at school and at home. This bill sends a dangerous message to already vulnerable youth, especially trans youth, that they and their stories are worth less than their peers.”

SB 480 - “Gender Transition Procedures for Minors”: 

Under SB 480, those under the age of 18 would not be allowed to receive gender-affirming medical care/procedures. This bill passed 8-5 in the House and was given to the Governor March 21, 2023. Governor Holcomb signed SB 480 into Indiana law on April 5, 2023.

According to Blair, “Today, despite the opposition of all legitimate medical organizations, the Indiana Senate Health and Provider Services Committee voted to strip parents of their rights to make age-appropriate medical decisions for their children by banning gender-affirming medical care for trans youth.”

She continued by saying, “Indiana legislators are risking the lives of young people by forcing their way into family decision-making, a fundamental right which has traditionally been protected against government intrusion. Gender-affirming medical care for trans youth is safe, effective, and life-saving care. The ACLU of Indiana stands ready to defend the freedom of families to make these decisions for their children.”

Scientific American cites, “those who had access to puberty blockers or gender-affirming hormones were 60 percent less likely to experience moderate to severe depression, and those with access to the medical treatments were 73 percent less likely to contemplate self-harm or suicide.”

SB 354 - “Education Matters”:

This bill would require schools/staff to inform parents if their student asks to change their gender identity, including name and pronouns. It specifies grounds to inform parents as a student using a, “name, attire, pronoun, title or word to identify the student in a manner that is inconsistent with the student’s biological sex at birth.”

SB 354 has yet to pass the Senate, at time of publication.

According to Jeff Raatz who authored and proposed SB 354 on Dec. 26, 2022 stated, “parents should know if their child is struggling and shouldn’t be kept from the situation.”

However, there are those that feel that this bill threatens the safety of transgender or gender-queer individuals in schools, putting them in a position where they may be “outed” to their parents or guardian without their consent.

“As a non-binary individual, I feel no one should have to come out if they do not want to. They should feel free to express themselves in spaces and situations where they feel safe,” Michael Harrigton said in an article in the Reflector. “Notifying parents of something so sensitive and personal as gender identity is dangerous and an unnecessary measure.”

According to the Trevor Project, 76% of LGBTQ+ youths in Indiana have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 80% identified family as providing low or moderate social support.

SB 12 - “Material harmful to minors”:

SB 12 passed the Senate 37-12 on Feb. 28, 2023, and it is a type of book banning bill that would make school librarians and teachers vulnerable to felony prosecution for having material a parent or guardian finds “objectionable.”

According to the IndyStar this bill, “removes a legal defense K-12 schools may use against charges of distributing “harmful material” to minors.” In addition, the IndyStar also reported that, “Should it pass, teachers, school librarians and other school employees could be charged with a Level 6 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 2.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”

As with other types of book bans, it is targeted at material that could be considered “controversial” or “explicit,” however, this often encompasses concepts like gender, sexuality, race, racism, etc.

Pen America has cited that between July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022, 41% of unique banned titles in the U.S. had LGBTQ+ themes, protagonists or had prominent queer secondary characters.

Although it was proposed in an attempt to keep pornography out of school libraries, there are those who feel that the bill is too broad and has the potential to remove literature related to race, gender and sexuality in schools.

HB 1569 - “Restrictions on DOC Provisions of Gender Therapy”: 

HB 1569 was introduced on Jan. 19, 2023, and passed the Senate 38-9 on March 30, 2023.

This bill bans the Department of Corrections (DOC) from providing gender reassignment surgery to offenders. Although according to the fiscal notes for HB 1569 the DOC doesn’t currently provide sexual reassignment surgery to offenders in DOC facilities. 

HB 1569 has been amended to allow the DOC to continue to provide hormone replacement therapies to offenders.

Peggy Mayfield authored HB 1569 and stated that, “I think this is more of a policy of using taxpayer money for procedures that are not medically proven yet. … This bill would provide clear and consistent policy on this treatment.”

With the presentation of this bill, there are those that feel that it is a violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

In a statement Blair stated, “‘This bill would categorically force the DOC to deny the only medically accepted evidence-based treatments available to incarcerated transgender people, placing their health at risk.’”

In this article we highlighted five of the bills that have been introduced in Indiana courts over the last few months. HB 354 has yet to pass the Senate, HB 1608, HB 1569 and SB 12 have all passed the Senate and SB 480 is the first to be signed into law. To track the progress of these, and other, bills, FastDemocracy is a site that tracks state and national legislation progress.

Abigail Godsen (she/her) is a freshman majoring in Applied Information Sciences. She is a reporter for The Campus Citizen. When she isn’t writing, Abby likes to cook, do crossword puzzles and drink a lot of tea. She can be summoned using tea, cardigans and books (according to her roommate Jackie).

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