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Cambridge University Press




In the by-now familiar framing “religious freedom versus LGBT+ rights,” perhaps the most visible conflicts today in the United States, and elsewhere, concern the “T”—transgender or gender identity rights. This issue of the Journal of Law and Religion includes a conversation in print between Patrick Parkinson, Laura Portuondo and Claudia Haupt, and Shannon Gilreath on this timely topic, and their contrasting perspectives mirror dimensions of the larger public controversies. Although tweets like those quoted above (by unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate Lavern Spicer) asserting that neither the Bible nor Jesus had pronouns sparked both factual corrections and comical retorts, 3 the underlying issues about religious stances on transgender rights are serious. Midway through 2022, state legislatures in the United States had already considered or passed a “record” number of bills seeking to restrict LGBTQ rights, with “most” of those bills “target[ing] transgender and nonbinary people, with a particular emphasis on trans youth.”4 These bills range from restricting gender-affirming care for minors to restricting what teachers may teach in schools to requiring transgender persons in public facilities like schools to use single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms based on their sex assigned at birth.5 One overview of such legislative efforts identified protecting “religiously-motivated discrimination against trans people” (such as religious exemptions from antidiscrimination laws) as one aim. 6 At the same time, some other state legislatures have taken steps to protect transgender persons, for example, by protecting their access to gender-affirming care and the rights of medical professionals to provide that care.7 Further, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 8 the Biden administration has issued executive orders declaring a policy to “prevent and combat” discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation through enforcing Title VII and other civil rights laws (including Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education).

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