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Poll Shows US Voters Overwhelmingly Oppose GOP Bills Attacking Trans Rights

Public support for the rights of transgender people flies in the face of state Republicans who are advancing a wave of anti-trans legislation nationwide.

People take part in rally outside the Stonewall Inn, a landmark of the gay rights movement, on February 23, 2017 in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, demanding equal rights for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

People take part in rally outside the Stonewall Inn, a landmark of the gay rights movement, on February 23, 2017 in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, demanding equal rights for transgender and gender non-conforming people. (Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

A new poll out Friday reveals that U.S. voters are overwhelmingly opposed to state laws restricting transgender rights.

The wide opposition—from Democrats and Republicans—stands in stark relief to the dozens of GOP-led legislative efforts like those in Mississippi and Arkansas to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth or prevent students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.

According to the PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, 67% of registered voters oppose bills preventing transgender students from participating in sports teams matching their gender identity.

That includes 69% of Democrats and  66% of Republicans. Just 27% of voters support such legislation, including 25% of Democrats and 29% of GOP voters.

Bipartisan opposition was similarly strong to state bills banning transition-related medical care for minors. Overall, 66% of voters were against such efforts, with 69% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans expressing that view. Just 27% of voters—including 26% of Democrats and Republicans—expressed support for those bills.

The poll of 1,066 voters was conducted April 7-13 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

There was a partisan divide when respondents were asked about support for a bill criminalizing providing gender-affirming care. Sixty-five percent of voters overall were opposed. Seventy-five percent of Democrats were opposed to such bills, 20 points higher than Republicans' 55%.

A larger partisan divide was reflected in respondents' answers about whether transgender students should simply be allowed to play on school sports teams matching their gender identity.

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For students in grade school, for example, only 26% of Republicans say they should be allowed compared to 71% who said they should not. For high school students, 17% of Republicans said they should be allowed and 81% said they should not.

The balance was flipped for Democrats. Seventy-five percent of Democrats said trans students in grade school should be allowed to play on sports teams matching their gender identity while just 18% said they should not. Looking at trans high school students, 75% of Democrats said they should be allowed to play on gender-matching teams; 20% said they should not.

The new poll also reflected overall support (62%) for the Equality Act. Passed by the U.S. House in February, the measure would reform civil rights law to include a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The poll found support from the legislation from 90% of Democrats but just 32% of Republican voters. 

"Most Americans support expanding civil rights laws to protect sexual orientation and gender identity, but along party lines, the issue is yet another culture clash facing the nation," Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist Poll, said in a statement. "However," Miringoff added, "there is little appetite for using state laws to discriminate."

State lawmakers are trying to do so anyway.

According to LGBT rights group GLAAD, at least 122 anti-LGBTQ bills are now under consideration across the country, including over 50 targeting transgender participation in sports, and over 30 targeting transgender youths' access to transition-related care.

A legislative tracker from Freedom for All Americans in partnership with the Equality Federation is compiling a list of such bills, such as Arkansas' HB 1570, which blocks doctors from providing gender-affirming care or referring patients for such care. Last week, the state's Republican legislators drew outrage from trans advocates after they overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of the bill.

In a statement at the time, ACLU of Arkansas executive director Holly Dickson said that "Arkansas legislators disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth."

"No matter what these politicians do or say, one thing has not changed: trans youth are loved, they are seen, and we will never stop fighting to defend their dignity, their rights and their lives," said Dickson. "To everyone who spoke out against this bill: now is the time to stay loud, not only for trans lives, but for all the fundamental rights that politicians are hellbent on attacking.”

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