This year, right wingers have been busy in conservative controlled legislatures, enacting an agenda that is so extreme that it often sidetracks to pure stupidity. It’s at least partly a reaction to Donald Trump’s election defeat, with his partisans lashing out in every direction.
Here are five examples where the lashing out turned into unconstitutionality, public danger, and downright absurdity:
1) Mandating statewide COVID denial. Despite all sound medical advice, Iowa HF 847 codified a provision that forbids public and private schools from requiring face coverings for students, staff or visitors. Of course, most Iowa students aged 12+ are unvaccinated and nobody under 12 is even eligible yet for the vaccine. The same bill also bans cities and counties from requiring masks.
Similarly, Utah HB 308 blocks the government, including state universities, from requiring anyone to get vaccinated for COVID-19. This ban also applies to public school and college sporting events. In more than a dozen red states, the governor has banned “vaccine passports” by executive order. In short, conservative lawmakers are quite literally sacrificing residents’ lives in order to comply with disinformation memes on the Internet.
2) Enacting a slate of hate. This is officially the worst year for anti-LGBTQ state legislation in recent history. Tennessee HB 1182, for example, aims to prevent transgender people from using public restrooms aligning with their gender identity by requiring businesses with “formal or informal” policies of allowing transgender people to use the appropriate restroom to post offensive and humiliating signage. Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk declared he will not enforce this new law, saying: “I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville. Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values. My office will not promote hate.”
Although Tennessee has been the worst this year, enacting five different anti-LGBTQ laws called “the slate of hate,” there have been at least six bans on trans athletes in sports (AR, AL, TN, MS, MT, WV), at least three laws allowing people to claim religious reasons for discrimination (AR, MT, SD), at least two laws discriminating against LGBTQ students in school (TN, MT), and much more.
3) National anthem insanity. Texas enacted SB 4, the “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act,” which essentially requires professional sports teams to play the national anthem before every game. This is the very definition of “reactionary” since the bill was inspired entirely by the Dallas Mavericks’ decision earlier this year to stop playing the anthem. Not only is this law unconstitutional, it’s nuts.
4) Attacks on constitutional rights of speech and assembly. Florida HB 1 is a fairly transparent attempt to suppress Black Lives Matter demonstrations. First it defines a “riot” as when someone “willfully participates in a violent public disturbance involving an assembly of three or more persons, acting with a common intent to assist each other in violent and disorderly conduct, resulting in injury to another person; damage to property; or imminent danger of injury to another person or damage to property.” Of course, “violent,” “injury,” “damage to property,” and especially “imminent danger” are subject to discriminatory interpretation—which is the whole point of the law. And there’s more! It specifically criminalizes damage to “historic property” which includes, of course, confederate monuments.
Florida is not the only state to suppress constitutional rights, however. Oklahoma HB 1674 asserts that a driver who “unintentionally” causes injury or death by hitting a protester with his or her car will not be criminally or civilly liable if they reasonably believe they’re “fleeing from a riot.” People drove their vehicles into protests more than one-hundred times last summer, and at least two protesters were killed that way. Further, over the past few years, more than a dozen red states have codified penalties for peacefully protesting near oil or gas pipelines, to deter environmental demonstrations. A good example is Mississippi HB 1243 which attempts to discourage protesting near pipelines and other “infrastructure facilities,” including those under construction.
5) Guns everywhere. Wyoming HB 116 dropped all restrictions on carrying loaded weapons, openly or concealed, for anyone 21 or older. Calling it “constitutional carry,” the law requires no permit, background check or training. Similarly, Texas HB 1927 (2021) eliminated concealed carry permits in the state, even though 60 percent of residents flatly oppose the law.
Missouri HB 85, called the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” provides that law enforcement officers will face fines if they “infringe” on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. The law also fines law enforcement agencies $50,000 every time an officer deprives a Missouri citizen of the right to bear arms. It is a political stunt to appeal to the right-wing base, and a dangerous one.