I’m certain everyone read yesterday’s post on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (that’s today) and thought, “I’m so glad I live in Arizona, where the state legislature and judiciary would never further oppress an already marginalized group of people!”
Of course, the reality is that even recent Arizona lawmakers have established a trend of creating legislation that further harms women, people of color, and poor people. Sadly, we can add gay people and trans* people to that list as well.
Adoption Law — While the state’s current adoption statute allows unmarried people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to petition to adopt, only a “husband and wife” may jointly adopt children. It does not provide for joint adoption by people in other domestic partnerships. In fact, if other factors are equal, current law gives explicit placement preference to “a married man and woman.” Moreover, additional legislation has been introduced at least twice — once in 2006 and once in 2010 — to attempt to require adoption agencies to give “primary consideration” to married couples seeking to adopt.
Birth Certificates — The statute does allow for an amended birth certificate if the person applying for such has had “a sex change operation” (sex reassignment surgery) and a note from their doctor saying as much. Certainly this is preferable to not having the option. However, it ignores some of the realities of sex reassignment surgery — that it can actually be a number of surgeries, that it comes with risks (e.g., general anesthetic) that can make it unworkable for some people, that it’s expensive and generally not covered by insurance, that providers are few and far between. Additionally, a birth certificate is one of the most common primary forms of identification for obtaining an Arizona driver’s license or state identification card — and it can be critical for individuals to have ID that matches their gender presentation, even if sex reassignment surgery has not been completed (if it’s even something the individual wants in the first place).
Hate Crimes — While “gender” is included in Arizona’s delineation of what constitutes a hate crime, “gender identity” is not. In practice, this means that the state collects data about crimes that “manifest evidence of prejudice” toward women — but not on crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice toward trans* people, whether those people are also women or not.
Health Care Decisions — Arizona law does allow domestic partners to act as health care surrogates for people who may be incapacitated or otherwise unable to make those decisions for themselves. However, unless the patient has created an advance health care directive (such as a living will or other document specifying health care power of attorney), the statutory default gives priority to spouses, adult children, and parents.
Other Discrimination — Arizona prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public employment only. It does not ban discrimination in private employment, nor does it ban public employment discrimination based on gender expression or identity. In fact, everyone’s favorite representative, John Kavanagh, has recently introduced a gutted and reworded SB 1045, which would prohibit state municipalities from passing anti-discrimination legislation to protect transgender people. Because, um, the “bathroom bill” was not a sufficiently hateful and extreme edition?
These issues are a big deal. The presence of harmful legislation and absence of protective legislation interfere with people’s rights to create and safeguard families, to receive the most appropriate medical care, to seek employment free from discrimination, and to live their lives free from harassment.
Sadly, I’m sure that a substantial portion of private groups and individuals will continue to display anti-trans and anti-gay prejudices and actions for the foreseeable future. Changing legislation will not always change minds. However, changing legislation would provide some recourse for some victims of such marginalization. At the very least, it would not perpetuate intolerance and hate.