LGBTQ Youth: Who Decides What Is Age-Appropriate?

On February 22, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate gender-affirming medical care provided to transgender youth as child abuse, requiring mandated reporters (such as teachers, doctors, and health care workers) to pass on that information to the DFPS.1

Gender-affirming medical care for youth typically includes doctor-approved and supervised, reversible puberty hormone blockers; some older youth receive supplemental hormones which can cause irreversible changes. Minors rarely, if ever, receive any surgical treatment as gender-affirming medical care.2 As a result of the order, Texas hospitals have stopped offering gender-affirming medical care and parents of transgender children have reported fears of having their children taken away and placed in foster care.3

On March 8, the Florida Legislature passed a controversial bill called Parental Rights in Education (also called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its opponents). The bill bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools from kindergarten through third grade and requires all LGBTQ content to be taught in an “age-appropriate manner.” Parents are allowed to sue a school if they believe it is in violation of the law. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill soon.4

Supporters of these government actions maintain that states have the right to protect young people from the consequences of decisions they may regret when they’re older (in the case of gender-affirming medical care), and to protect the rights of parents to ensure their children are exposed to topics of sexual orientation and gender identity in an age-appropriate way (in the case of public school education).

“Minors are prohibited from purchasing paint, cigarettes, alcohol, or even getting a tattoo,” said Jonathan Covey, policy director for the group Texas Values. “We cannot allow minors or their parents to make life-altering decisions on body-mutilating procedures and irreversible hormonal treatments.”5 Regarding the Parental Rights in Education bill, Governor DeSantis said, “We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum.”6

Opponents believe that these policies and others like them promote discrimination; punish LGBTQ youth, their parents, and those who care for their health needs; and are meant to incite fear and silence the LGBTQ community and its allies.7 Paul Castillo, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, wrote that Governor Abbott was “joining a politically motivated misinformation campaign with no consideration of medical science and seem determined to criminalize parents seeking to care and provide for their kids.” He added that “gender-affirming care for the treatment of gender dysphoria is medically necessary care, full stop.”8 Equality Florida criticized Governor DeSantis and his staff, indicating that they had essentially said “the quiet part out loud: that this bill is grounded in a belief that LGBTQ people, simply by existing, are a threat to children and must be erased.”9

While it is too soon to know the effects of the Florida legislation, the Texas policy on gender-affirming care has already prompted legal challenges and changed the care transgender children can access in the state. Some district attorneys in Texas have stated they will refuse to prosecute cases of child abuse stemming from reports of gender-affirming care. Hospitals have already begun to stop the medical interventions transgender youth had been able to access before Governor Abbott’s order.10

As other states consider similar legislation and policies, the issues surrounding the rights and treatment of LGBTQ youth have become national in scope, with President Joe Biden’s administration weighing in as well. On March 2, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement indicating that health care professionals who report child abuse under the Texas policy may be in violation of federal privacy protections.11 Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona suggested that the Florida legislation might violate Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education (to include sexual orientation), and might prompt a civil-rights investigation if enacted.12

With federal and state policies in direct conflict, this fight has reached a national stage with far-reaching consequences for the individuals affected.

Discussion Questions

  1. What might be the long-term consequences of these policies remaining in place? What might happen if they are overturned?
  2. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cited several court cases which have held that it is important for the government to protect children due to their “peculiar vulnerability” in his opposition to gender-affirming care for minors.13 Do you believe that young people must be protected by the government from making a choice that carries long-term effects such as hormone therapy? Why or why not?
  3. Across the country, parents are asserting their right to influence school curriculum. In addition to the Florida legislation, parents have recently rallied for and against critical race theory and books that should and should not be available in school libraries. Do you think parents should have a prominent say in what their children learn in public schools? Or should teachers, administration officials, and school boards make that call? Explain your reasoning.

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below!

 

Sources

Featured Image Credit: San Diego Pride
[1] Office of the Texas Governor: https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/O-MastersJaime202202221358.pdf
[2] KHOU 11: https://www.khou.com/article/news/health/what-is-gender-affirming-medical-care/285-d292e05d-f706-4f4a-979d-a0309f3a13c1.
[3] The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-southwest/at-home-with-the-families-affected-by-texass-new-anti-trans-orders
[4] NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/dont-say-gay-bill-florida-senate-passes-controversial-lgbtq-school-mea-rcna19133
[5] New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/01/us/texas-child-abuse-trans-youth.html
[6] Associated Press: https://apnews.com/article/dont-say-gay-bill-passes-florida-legislature-b173917e985833963e45a8d0464a4399
[7] Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/gender-affirming-care-setting-the-record-straight-as-extremist-politicians-in-texas-and-other-states-continue-doubling-down-on-attacking-trans-youth-2
[8] New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/01/us/texas-child-abuse-trans-youth.html
[9] Time: https://time.com/6155905/florida-dont-say-gay-passed/
[10] KHOU 11: https://www.khou.com/article/news/health/what-is-gender-affirming-medical-care/285-d292e05d-f706-4f4a-979d-a0309f3a13c1.
[11] KHOU 11: https://www.khou.com/article/news/health/texas-childrens-hospital-pauses-gender-affirming-services/285-8e2fe08c-a60e-47fa-bc99-91f08e615e7b 11 Spectrum New 1. https://spectrumlocalnews.com/tx/san-antonio/news/2022/03/10/texas-ag-ken-paxton-sues-biden-over-gender-affirming-care-guidance-
[12] The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/03/florida-dont-say-gay-law/627021/
[13] Bellotti v. Baird (1979).

 

Ukraine and the 2022 State of the Union Address

On March 1, 2022, President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address. He hit on several major topics that have impacted the nation over the last year. This post will focus on the president’s discussion of the most recent and pressing global issue: the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

READ MORE: The Russian Invasion of Ukraine

During the address, many members of Congress and people in the audience donned yellow and blue clothing and held small flags to show their support for the people of Ukraine. To begin, President Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. He praised the strength and will of the Ukrainian people, who have taken up arms to defend their country. He made it clear that the United States believes in the sovereignty of Ukraine and supports the cause of its people.

President Biden next laid out how the United States and other nations have taken action against Russia. In particular, he discussed what the member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have been doing to support Ukraine during this time. NATO is an alliance of European and North American countries that formed in the aftermath of World War II. Today, NATO “provides a unique link between these two continents, enabling them to consult and cooperate in the field of defense and security, and conduct multinational crisis-management operations together.”1 It is important to note that Ukraine is not a member of NATO nor of the European Union (EU).

READ MORE: What Is Happening in Ukraine?

President Biden discussed the build-up to the conflict and how many nations had been coming together for months to build coalitions against Putin. He highlighted that the United States had warned the world about what it suspected Putin of planning and pushed other countries to see through the Russian narrative.

He then recapped that nearly 30 members of the EU have come out against Russia, pointing out that even Switzerland—a nation known for its neutrality—has sided with Ukraine in the current conflict. The actions taken against Russia by other countries have been numerous. President Biden laid out several in his address:

  1. “Together, along with our allies, we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions.
  2. We’re cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system, preventing Russia’s Central Bank from defending the Russian ruble, making Putin’s $630 billion war fund worthless.
  3. We’re choking Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come.
  4. The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We’re joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, luxury apartments, and private jets. We’re coming for your ill-begotten gains.
  5. And, tonight, I’m announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy.
  6. Together with our allies, we’re providing support to the Ukrainians in their fight for freedom: military assistance, economic assistance, humanitarian assistance. We’re giving more than a billion dollars in direct assistance to Ukraine. And we’ll continue to aid the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and help ease their suffering.”2

After laying out the above actions, President Biden made it clear that the U.S. military would not engage in a conflict against Russian forces in Ukraine. However, U.S. troops have begun to move into territory held by NATO nations as a preventative measure.

“Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine but to defend our NATO allies in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west,” said President Biden. “For that purpose, we have mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, ship deployments to protect NATO countries, including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. And as I’ve made crystal clear, the United States and our allies will defend every inch of territory that is NATO territory with the full force of our collective power—every single inch.”

The president closed his discussion of the situation in Ukraine by announcing that the United States, along with 30 other countries, plans to release 60 million barrels of oil from world reserves, and the United States will lead this effort by releasing 30 million barrels of its own resources.

He concluded by saying, “I know news about what’s happening can seem alarming to all Americans. But I want you to know: We’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe that the United States and other nations around the world should take up arms against Russia to defend Ukraine? Why or why not?
  2. Ukraine has asked to join the EU and NATO. Do you believe it should be allowed to join at this contentious time? Why or why not?
  3. What are your thoughts and opinions on the current situation between Ukraine and Russia? Does it remind you of anything else from your previous studies?

Additional Resources

READ MORE: The State of the Union Transcript

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below!

 

Sources

Featured Image Credit: PBS
[1] NATO: https://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/index.html
[2] White House transcript of the State of the Union: https://www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2022/

 

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine

On January 26, we posted about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. Since then, Russia has invaded Ukraine and surrounded the capital, Kyiv. More than half a million refugees have fled the country and at least 136 civilians, including 13 children, have been killed.1

What Has Happened Since Then?

  • February 21: The Russian government recognizes the sovereignty of the Ukrainian breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and sends troops to “keep the peace.” Ukraine and its allies declare the troops to be a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.2
  • February 24: Russian President Vladimir Putin declares war on Ukraine, and the Russian military invades from the north, east, and south. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declares martial law and breaks diplomatic relations with Russia.3
  • February 25: Russian forces reach Kyiv and begin attacking the capital city.4
  • February 26: The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union (EU) announce they will bar several major Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, the global financial messaging system known as SWIFT.
  • February 27: Putin directs forces to increase the readiness of Russia’s nuclear weapons, raising fears that the current conflict could turn into nuclear war.
  • February 28: Ukrainian and Russian diplomats meet on the border of Ukraine and Belarus. No agreement is made, but both sides agree to continue talks.
  • March 1: Russian forces surround Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. Video appears to show a missile striking City Hall in the city center.5 Economic sanctions begin to take hold as Visa, Mastercard, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and others block services to sanctioned Russian banks.6

Why Did Russia Invade?

After months of claiming that he had no plans to invade Ukraine, Putin’s forces attacked several major cities last week. Putin claimed that Russia could not feel “safe, develop, and exist” because of the threat from modern Ukraine, and demanded assurances that it would never join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Putin also falsely accused the Ukrainian government of genocide and called for the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine.7 These claims are part of Putin’s well-documented campaign of disinformation.8 Zelenskyy is Jewish and Ukraine’s chief rabbi and the Auschwitz Memorial have both rejected Putin’s claims.9

It is difficult to know exactly why Putin chose to invade now and what his final aims are, but many foreign policy experts agree that he wants to restore Russia to the superpower status the Soviet Union once enjoyed and topple Zelenksyy’s democratically elected government. Putin likely views a democratic Ukraine as an existential threat to his own autocratic leadership in Russia and fears protests for democratic reforms among his own citizens. It is impossible to know if Ukraine is Putin’s only target or if he would invade other countries, as he did with Georgia in 2008.10

It is likely that Putin was not expecting such a global response to his invasion. During his 2008 invasion of Georgia, his 2014 invasion of Ukraine and takeover of Crimea, and Russia’s bombing of civilians in Syria, sanctions and international condemnation were not as strong as those we see today.11

How Has the United States Responded?

President Joe Biden authorized an additional $350 million in defense aid on February 25, bringing the total U.S. assistance to Ukraine to more than $1 billion in the last 12 months.12 President Biden said the United States will also deploy 7,000 troops to Germany to reinforce NATO after the invasion of Ukraine (which is not a member). President Biden maintains that he will not send U.S. troops to Ukraine, a position he took before the Russian invasion. “That’s a world war when Americans and Russians start shooting at one another,” he said. Similarly, he has chosen a path of de-escalation in the face of Putin’s nuclear threats.13

In addition to providing aid to Ukraine and NATO, the United States and its allies have imposed economic sanctions on Russian leaders and the Russian financial system. President Biden has stated that while he wants to inflict damage on the Russian ruling class, he does not want to impoverish average Russians.14 The sanctions are likely to disrupt international markets as well. Food, energy, and industrial supply chains will be affected, and Americans are likely to see energy and food prices rise.15

How Do Economic Sanctions Work?

Many countries, including the United States, are moving to swiftly isolate Russia’s financial system. They are blocking some Russian products from being imported and limiting what types of products can be sold to Russia, with technology products that are not produced in Russia especially targeted.

Ksenia Galouchko, Bloomberg

The has caused the Russian ruble to lose as much as 25 percent of its value. Russia’s central bank (similar to the Federal Reserve in the United States, which regulates interest rates to help fight inflation and grow the economy) has as much as $643 billion in different banks around the world. Governments are now restricting access to that money so the Russian government cannot soften the impact of the sanctions.16 Inflation in Russia could be as high as 70 percent, and the Russian government shut down the stock exchange on Monday and Tuesday. To further isolate Russian financial institutions, Western countries are removing several Russian banks from SWIFT, a financial messaging network that allows banks to transfer money internationally.17 Economists describe the sanctions as “unprecedented.”18

How Are Other Governments and Organizations Responding?

  • At a rare emergency meeting of the 193-member General Assembly of the United Nations, 110 members signed up to speak about the war. Later this week, the UN will vote on a resolution that demands Russia immediately stop using force and withdraw all troops from Ukraine. The resolution must be passed unanimously.19
  • The EU, the United Kingdom, and Canada have closed their airspace to all Russian aircraft, including private jets of wealthy Russians.20
  • Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission of the EU, said that Ukraine belongs in the EU, after Zelenskyy signed an application for membership.21
  • Karim A. A. Khan, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said he will pursue an investigation into the war in Ukraine, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.22

What Can We Expect in the Coming Days?

While the Russian military has not taken over any of the major cities it has attacked, it is important to remember that it is still early in the conflict. Ukrainian troops and civilians are providing more resistance than the Russian military was likely expecting, but foreign policy experts warn that Russian forces are still coming and seem to be surrounding Kyiv and Kharkiv.23

Russia looks to be using a strategy it found effective in Syria when it was supporting President Bashar al-Assad: bombing civilian centers with long-range precision weapons and taking over cities once civilians flee. In Syria, Russia used missiles to bomb hospitals, schools, and markets, and there are fears that Putin will use a similar strategy against Ukrainian civilians.24

Protests against the Russian invasion have popped up in many cities across the globe, including in Russia. More than 6,435 Russians have been arrested and detained for protesting their government’s invasion of Ukraine thus far.25

Discussion Questions

  1. What responsibility does the United States have to defend its allies?
  2. Economic sanctions are likely to be felt by Americans and people around the world, not just by Russians. Do the costs of sanctions outweigh their benefits?
  3. How is America using soft power to influence Russia?
  4. Do you agree with President Biden that sending U.S. troops to Ukraine would create a world war?

Key Terms

  • Economic sanctions: Penalties against a country (officials or private citizens) either as punishment or an effort to provide disincentives for the targeted policies and actions; sanctions can range from travel bans and export restrictions to trade embargoes and asset seizures26
  • Sovereignty: The idea that a country controls what happens inside its borders and cannot interfere in what happens elsewhere27

Additional Resources

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below!

 

Sources

Featured Image Credit: Gleb Garanich, Reuters
[1] Ledur, Julia, et al. “Photos and Videos Show Long Waits, Traffic Jams at Border Crossings as Thousands Try to Leave Ukraine.” Washington Post. 27 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[2] Hopkins, Valerie, and Andrew E. Kramer. “Why It Matters That Russia Just Recognized Donetsk and Luhansk.” New York Times. 21 Feb. 2022. Web. 25 Feb. 2022.
[3] Zinets, Natalia, and Aleksandar Vasovic. “Missiles Rain Down Around Ukraine.” Reuters. 24 Feb. 2022. Web. 25 Feb. 2022.
[4] Harding, David. “Ukraine President Declares Martial Law Following Russia Invasion.” The Independent. 25 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[5] Schwirtz, Michael. “An Explosion Rocks Kharkiv a Day After Shelling in a Residential Neighborhood.” New York Times. 1 Mar. 2022. Web. 1 Mar. 2022.
[6] Picchi, Aimee. “Visa, Mastercard Block Services to Russian Banks Targeted By Sanctions.” CBS News. 1 Mar. 2022. Web. 1 Mar. 2022.
[7] Berger, Miriam. “Putin Says He Will ‘Denazify’ Ukraine. Here’s the History Behind That Claim.” Washington Post. 24 Feb. 2022. Web. 25 Feb. 2022.
[8] U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesperson. “Fact vs. Fiction: Russian Disinformation on Ukraine.” 20 Jan. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[9] Kirby, Paul. “Why Is Russia Invading Ukraine and What Does Putin Want?” BBC News. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[10] Person, Robert, and Michael McFaul. “What Putin Fears Most.” Journal of Democracy. National Endowment for Democracy. 22 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[11] “Timeline: The Events Leading Up to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine.” Reuters. 1 Mar. 2022. Web. 1 Mar. 2022.
[12] Jeong, Andrew, et al. “Biden Authorizes $350 Million More in Defense Aid for Ukraine in Response to Russian Invasion.” Washington Post. 26 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[13] Sanger, David E., and William J. Broad. “Putin Declares a Nuclear Alert, and Biden Seeks De-escalation.” New York Times. 27 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[14] Medhani, Aamer, et al. “Biden Hits Russia with Sanctions, Shifts Troops to Germany.” Associated Press. 24 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[15] Rai, Sarakshi, and Sylvan Lane. “Five Ways the Russian Invasion of Ukraine Could Impact the US Economy.” The Hill. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[16] Troianovski, Anton. “The Ruble Crashes, the Stock Market Closes and Russia’s Economy Staggers Under Sanctions.” New York Times. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[17] Seth, Shobhit. “How the SWIFT System Works.” Investopedia. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[18] Sorkin, Andrew Ross, et al. “How Economic Warfare is Battering Russia.” New York Times. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[19] Peltz, Jennifer, and Edith M. Lederer. “At Rare UN Session, Russia is Pressed to Stop War in Ukraine.” Associated Press. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[20] Bursztynksy, Jessica. “Many European Countries and Canada Join in Closing Their Airspace to Russian Planes.” CNBC. 27 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[21] Anderson, Emma. “Ukraine Belongs in EU, Commission Chief von der Leyen Says.” Politico Europe. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[22] Perez-Pena, Richard. “The I.C.C. Prosecutor Says He Plans to Investigate Possible War Crimes in Ukraine.” New York Times. 28 Feb. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[23] Khurshudyan, Isabelle, et al. “Russian Invasion Escalates as Massive Convoy Threatens Kyiv, Kharkiv ‘Surrounded.’” Washington Post. 1 Mar. 2022. Web. 1 Mar. 2022.
[24] Karam, Zeina, et al. “Russia’s Syria Intervention Provided Hints for Ukraine War.” Associated Press. 1 Mar. 2022. Web. 1 Mar. 2022.
[25] Ives, Mike. “At Least 411 People Are Detained Across Russia As Antiwar Protests Continue.” New York Times. 1 Mar. 2022. Web. 1 Mar. 2022.
[26] Masters, Jonathon. “What Are Economic Sanctions?” Council on Foreign Relations. 12 Aug. 2019. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.
[27] “What is Sovereignty?” Council on Foreign Relations. 2022. Web. 28 Feb. 2022.