Why We’re Fighting Against the Internet Ban at Our School in Texas
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA. – Recently, many conservative states in the South (including Alabama, Texas, and Arkansas) have passed laws or adopted policies that criminalize health care for transgender youth.
In response, California and New York appear poised to pass their own laws. Broadly speaking, these laws would prevent the removal of trans youth from supportive families, prohibit cooperation with out-of-state investigations, prohibit the issuance of subpoenas by state agencies, prohibit state police would arrest the providers and relatives and would deny extradition to states trying to enforce these bans on health care.
These bills are desperately needed. Parents of trans youth in these Southern states are already fleeing, even as these cruel, anti-science, and senseless laws destroy Texas state child protective services from within.
But there is a bigger picture here. This tug of war between conservative white states in the South and the North and West has happened before in American history, and it didn’t end well.
The United States Constitution established that slaves who fled to abolitionist states were still slaves and should be returned to their owners in the South. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 allowed states to seize and return fugitive slaves. It also established a penalty of $500 (huge at the time) for anyone who obstructed slave hunters or aided a runaway slave.
The 1793 law was extremely unpopular. Towns and villages in the North passed laws and created shrines to thwart the act. In retaliation, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 doubled fines, removed the right of habeus corpus for blacks, and usually closed loopholes that northerners had exploited.
Finally, there was the decision of the Supreme Court of Dred Scott vs. Sandford. Scott had lived for 10 years in states where slavery was outlawed, namely Illinois and the Louisiana Territory (per the Missouri Compromise of 1820). Taney’s court sadly ruled in 1857 that as a black man he was not an American citizen and therefore had no standing to pursue his freedom in American court. This effectively ended all legal recourse for black people in the United States, including northern freemen kidnapped and sold as slaves.
Which brings us back to the present day, where liberal states in the north and west are pitted against conservative states in the south bent on owning the bodies of women and LGBTQ+ people across the country. The attack on bodily autonomy goes beyond trans youth and abortion: emerging efforts to ban health care for transgender adults and restore sodomy laws. So while transgender people are at the forefront of the spear, others are not left out.
For example, with Roe vs. Wade Likely to be struck down or rendered moot in June, Texas and other abortion-banning states will draft laws making it a crime to seek an abortion in another state. They will pass laws making helping anyone seeking an out-of-state abortion a crime and will do whatever they can to criminalize doctors from other states who perform them (likely under the criminal murder rule).
Likewise, after Roe vs. Wade goes down, the Republican Party has made it clear that Oberefell (who overturned laws banning same-sex marriage) and Lawrence v. Texas (who overturned sodomy laws) will be next.
The moment Lawrence falls, homosexuality becomes illegal again in 12 states. Given the way the GOP has decided that LGBT people are the number one threat to society and launches attack after attack accusing the community of being “groomers” or pedophiles, it’s almost certain that states like the Texas will appeal to the base and use this law as a cudgel to drive people out of the state. They will also attempt to bring people back to stand trial, as they do for parents of trans youth and those seeking abortions.
These types of efforts wouldn’t be so scary if the country had a functioning Supreme Court dedicated to upholding human rights. Alas, this is not the case. The Supreme Court has been filled with right-wing ideologues over the past two decades, all but one nominated by presidents who failed to win the popular vote. The Roberts court was content to rule via the ‘shadow brief’ and allow outrageous laws like Texas’ SB8 ‘abortion bonus’ to take effect, even when they infringe on human rights fundamentals.
Therefore, there is no reason to believe that this Court will rule by understanding what the past may tell the Court about the implications of its actions. The Taney Court’s Dred Scott decision is widely seen as the catalyst that made civil war inevitable. The conservative justices on the bench today are left wondering what happens when they hand down a decision that is incredibly unpopular with the American people and aimed exclusively at white Christians in the south.
What happens when Southern states can penetrate deep into free states to tear families apart? What happens when you criminalize helping people flee the old South because they can no longer exercise basic bodily autonomy? What happens when you eliminate refuges from cities and states in the North and West and force them to participate in acts of cruelty that violate their fundamental ethics? What happens when the only refuge left for women and LGBTQ+ people is Canada?
You get secession and a civil war, whether it’s 1861 or 2025. Like Taney, the court is going to rule on the South side again and again. Unlike Taney, however, they have the advantage of history to tell them exactly where it leads, making them even dumber than their intellectual ancestors.