LGBTQ+ Civil Rights: Westlaw Data Reveals Legislation Volume Tripled Since 2018
Legal Current often examines Westlaw data for a historical perspective on legal trends and news. A few years ago, we looked at defining moments in LGBTQ+ civil rights, including key U.S. Supreme Court rulings and legislation. During Pride Month, we again turn to Westlaw for a sense of legal activity on LGBTQ+ civil rights.
Westlaw data shows that in 2022, a staggering 1,662 pieces of legislation related to LGBTQ+ rights have been introduced at the state and federal levels. Of those, 1,077 were specific to transgender/transsexual rights or discrimination issues, and 126 bills were enacted.
This volume of legislation represents a significant surge. For comparative purposes, the previous three years – combined – saw fewer than 200 pieces of LGBTQ+ legislation enacted: 76 bills in 2019, 58 in 2020, and 63 in 2021.
These tallies aren’t surprising given the climate of the past few years, from the COVID-19 pandemic to global protests calling for social and racial justice. More notable is how substantial the 2022 surge is compared to 2015 and 2018, years that also saw upticks in LGBTQ+ legislation.
LGBTQ+ legislative activity more than tripled
Westlaw data revealed that 2015 was a watershed year for LGBTQ+ rights. In 2015, Westlaw showed 530 pieces of legislation related to LGBTQ+ rights proposed or enacted at the state and federal level. This volume dwarfed the 207 bills on LGBTQ+ rights proposed or enacted in 2014, as well as 234 such bills in 2013.
For transgender rights in 2015, Westlaw data showed 153 pieces of related legislation were introduced at the state and federal levels – a big jump from 77 such bills in 2014 and 72 related bills in 2013.
The 2015 uptick continued with the “rainbow wave” in 2018, when Westlaw data showed 538 pieces of legislation related to LGBTQ+ rights were introduced at the state and federal levels. Of these, 342 were specific to transgender/transsexual rights or discrimination issues; 38 of the proposals were enacted.
The 2018 increase in transgender legislation – anti-trans as well as anti-discriminatory bills – pales in comparison to the 2022 surge. And with key court rulings fast approaching, LGBTQ+ legislative activity isn’t likely to slow down.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade – the landmark decision that legalized abortion – is expected soon. And as Reuters reported, the Supreme Court “looks set to dramatically scale back abortion rights.” If that happens, legal experts note the decision could impact the right to same-sex marriage too.
At the state level, the most well-known LGBTQ+ legislation may be in Florida, where lawmakers passed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill – called the “don’t say gay” bill by opponents. It prohibits classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity for students in early elementary school. The bill sparked a national debate and inspired other states to propose similar legislation.
With uncertainty over what will happen next at the federal and state levels, proposals for both anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-discriminatory legislation will likely continue.