Arizona Republicans seeking to restrict how trans and nonbinary students are spoken to by their teachers were sharply rebuffed by Gov. Katie Hobbs on Monday, who vetoed a measure forcing teachers to secure parental permission before students could have their pronouns and chosen names respected.
“As politicians across the country continue to pass harmful legislation directed at transgender youth, I have a clear message to the people of Arizona: I will veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children,” Hobbs wrote in her veto letter for Senate Bill 1001.
The bill would have barred teachers and school staff from referring to a student with pronouns or names inconsistent with their biological sex or given name, regardless of the student’s request. Only written parental permission could change that — but even then, a provision allowed for staff with a “religious or moral conviction” to continue to undermine the wishes of students and their parents.
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Hobbs criticized the bill as a discriminatory attack and called on lawmakers to craft proposals that better address the challenges the state faces without hurting Arizonans.
“Instead of coming up with new ways to target and isolate our children, we should be working together to create an Arizona where everyone has the freedom to be who they are without fear of harassment or judgment,” she wrote on Twitter.
The measure continued hostility toward LGBTQ Arizona youth from GOP lawmakers, who last year joined a national wave of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to pass a trans athlete ban and gender-affirming surgery prohibition. This year has seen heightened discrimination, with Arizona Republicans introducing several measures to punish drag performances, keep trans students out of public school facilities and ban any books that mention any pronouns.
SB1001, in particular, drew criticism from the LGBTQ community, which denounced it for putting trans and nonbinary students at risk of increased suicide risk. Trans and nonbinary youth already face disproportionately high rates of contemplating or attempting suicide, but research shows that simply using correct pronouns can decrease that risk as much as 65%.
Proponents of the bill, however, sought to frame it as a protection of parental rights and safeguard for students.
“Parents have a right to know if their children are in psychological turmoil,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, in an emailed statement. “(They) need to know if their children are confused, depressed, anxious, isolating themselves, having suicidal thoughts or are in need of mental health care because of gender dysphoria. Parents can’t get their children the counseling or therapy needed if their school is hiding this information from them.”
Gender dysphoria is a condition characterized by intense distress that occurs when a person’s biological sex and gender identity don’t align. Treatment for the condition is gender-affirming care, which includes accurate pronoun use.
Kavanagh, a lawmaker with a history of anti-trans legislation who authored several discriminatory proposals this session, slammed Hobbs for what he called turning a “blind eye” to the mental health issues students face.
Hobbs, meanwhile, applauded the numerous students and advocates who testified against the bill at the state Capitol, and echoed the words of Rep. Lorena Austin, D-Mesa, who spoke out against it repeatedly. Austin is the state’s first nonbinary and gender nonconforming lawmaker.
“I would like to reemphasize their words to all the young people of the state,” Hobbs wrote. “‘You have every right to be who you are.’”
Also rejected on Monday was House Bill 2560, which would have required the secretary of state to post a list of every registered voter online before an election took place, and a list of everyone who voted afterwards, along with images of the ballots cast and a copy of the cast vote record. The bill was enthusiastically supported by Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, and proponents touted it as wins for transparency and voter trust.
But Hobbs, who was secretary of state from 2019 until 2022, and voting rights advocates disagreed.
While she acknowledged the measure’s good intentions, Hobbs warned it would likely present privacy challenges for Arizona voters, and the bill’s lack of allocated funding would increase the workload for election officials without proper compensation.
“This bill threatens anonymity and privacy – core tenants of free and fair voting in our democracy,” she wrote.
Alex Gulotta, director of the state’s All Voting is Local organization, celebrated Hobbs’ veto as a preventative measure to avoid giving election denialists any more fodder.
“Thank you to Governor Hobbs for protecting Arizona’s elections by vetoing this bill, which would have empowered conspiracy theorists to spread disinformation about Arizona elections,” Gulotta said in an emailed statement.
Six other bills were rejected by Hobbs on Monday, bringing her running total for the year to 94, the most of any other governor before her. And with several more measures still awaiting a final decision, the Democrat is likely to break 100 soon.
- House Bill 2108 would have required Arizonans receiving unemployment benefits to meet strict criteria to remain eligible, including logging five weekly work applications and writing up a weekly report. The measure, purporting to act as a barrier against fraud, only served to further burden struggling Arizonans, Hobbs said.
- House Bill 2441 sought to respond to the water cutoff residents of the Rio Verde Foothills faced when Scottsdale turned off their water supply. The bill would have required local governments in Maricopa County to enter an agreement with a third party to treat and transport water to a standpipe for three years, which could then be self-hauled. Hobbs dismissed the measure as a short-term solution that would likely not go into effect immediately as it wasn’t passed with supermajority support. She advocated instead for a similar bill that has yet to be approved by the Senate which would be implemented immediately if it garnered enough support.
- Senate Bill 1011 would have allowed cities to hold partisan elections if they chose to, which is currently prohibited. Cities, Hobbs wrote, are simply not asking for such a change.
- Senate Bill 1025 would have enacted stricter limits for which areas cities can designate as free from political signs. “Arizonans are not asking for more campaign signs in their communities,” Hobbs wrote.
- Senate Bill 1048 would have increased the amount of money Arizonans can donate to a campaign before they must meet certain reporting requirements. The threshold would have been raised from $100 to $200. That, Hobbs said, only serves to reduce transparency in campaign financing.
- Senate Bill 1100 increased the weight threshold of all-terrain-vehicles at which Arizonans could expect to be required to drive with a designated license and pay a specified tax from 2,500 to 3,500 pounds.
Hobbs also signed five bills on Monday, including House Bill 2826, which continues the state’s low-income health insurance program, AHCCCS, until 2029. State agencies undergo regular periods of review, after which the legislature decides whether or not to preserve their existence, and for how long. Other bills approved included:
- Senate Bill 1157, which outlines stricter and more detailed reporting requirements for discharging and transferring patients from or between assisted living facilities.
- Senate Bill 1333 that requires the Department of Health Services to create a searchable online database with information on health professionals whose certification or licenses have been revoked in the past five years.
- House Bill 2478, which raises the sentencing penalty for an assault against a law enforcement officer, placing it on the same level as an assault against a health care worker or firefighter.
- Senate Bill 1186, which expands the rights of foster children, including requiring them to be placed with close relatives and as near to their siblings as possible and being allowed to attend extracurricular school activities if they choose to.
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