The Christian Right and State Legislatures: The New Battleground for ‘Family Values’

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Culicchia, Catherine
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Scholarship Sewanee 2022 , Christian Right , State Legislatures , Bathroom Bills , Healthcare Limits , LGBTQ Rights
The Christian Right has recently re-emerged on the federal level with the election of President Donald Trump and the prioritization of culture war issues, in particular LGBTQ Rights. This re-emergence has been especially apparent on the state level, where state legislatures are increasingly becoming more and more active in policymaking (Langehennig et al. 2019). A gap in the literature exists in deciphering whether the influence of Evangelical Christianity, specifically in the South, contributes to the success of the Christian Right Movement in getting legislation on its anti-LGBTQ policy agenda passed through state legislatures. The Christian Right has long maintained anti-LGBTQ policy positions, but recently there has been a new focus on anti-trans policies (Wilcox & Larson 2006; Levy 2014; Stulberg 2018). This study employs a legislative success scale to measure the success of Bathroom Bills and Healthcare Limitations in state legislatures in all 50 states from 2018-2021. Data was drawn from the ACLU’s tracking of legislation affecting LGBTQ rights across the country and cross-referenced with state legislatures' records. Through this analysis, preliminary conclusions can be drawn about the success of the Christian Right in pushing culture war issues in state legislatures and the level of influence on different regions of the US. The Christian Right’s recent success at capturing media attention and re-invigorating classic Culture War issues such as LGBTQ rights shows their success at making noise and starting debates. But does this controversy translate into legislative success? Has the influence of the Christian Right has led to legislative policy success in Southern Legislatures as opposed to other regions of the US? I hypothesize that Evangelical influence may no longer be a geographical phenomenon and that these bills are increasing in success in regions across the US.