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Year in Review: Protecting children and families in every setting

The clash intensified in healthcare, schools, churches, and community activities

Flags in front of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan. Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Riedel, File

Year in Review: Protecting children and families in every setting

Here’s a recap of this year’s news on the marriage, family, and sexuality beat:

More states say no to transgender treatments for kids

It was a popular year to pass laws protecting children from cross-sex hormone treatments and surgeries. According to the pro-LGBTQ Movement Advancement Project, 20 states passed some form of protection in 2023, and most of the measures endured protests, legal challenges, or both. Governors in five states vetoed the protections but were overridden in four. A judge overturned a 2021 Arkansas law, removing protections for youth in that state. Meanwhile, four states still have their laws temporarily blocked by judges, and lawsuits are pending against similar measures in four other states.

Methodists, but no longer united

More than 5,000 congregations exited the United Methodist Church this year after disputes over homosexuality, sexual ethics, and Biblical fidelity divided the denomination. With a quarter of the denomination gone, UMC officials are planning historic budget cuts. Most breakaway congregations have joined the Global Methodist Church, a new conservative denomination, but others chose to become independent or join smaller denominations. UMC rules forbid homosexual relations, but the denomination has allowed openly homosexual bishops to serve in its senior leadership.

Is the Vatican shifting on same-sex marriage?

Similar to the United Methodists, the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally called homosexuality a sin, but recent moves by Pope Francis suggest its stance is shifting. In January, the pontiff said homosexuality should not be a crime, in essence condemning numerous countries that still criminalize same-sex activity. In December, the pope said priests could bless same-sex couples with the acknowledgment that such blessings do not constitute wedding ceremonies. Similarly, the Church of England also altered its policy permitting bishops to hold services, but not weddings, for same-sex couples.

Drag queens

State legislatures this year took up the issue of drag queens reading to children at public libraries. In March, Tennessee became the first state to protect children from viewing public drag performances, followed by Montana. Within months, Arkansas, North Dakota, Florida, and Texas passed bans on minors attending adult-oriented, “adult live,” or sexually oriented performances, which some say includes any performance done in drag. Judges temporarily blocked the laws in Florida and Montana and permanently struck down the measures in Tennessee and Texas.

Marriage rate bounces back

According to a report released in September, the marriage rate in the United States returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 while the divorce rate remained close to historic lows. Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center survey released in June said more 40-year-old Americans have never been married than at any point ever recorded. All of this suggests Americans are waiting longer to be married, but once they eventually tie the knot, more are sticking to it.

Bizarre stories

A school board in New Hampshire thought it was a clever compromise on restroom debates over gender identity to ban all students from using urinals—that is until students protested. Who knew kids would miss them? A man identifying as a woman sued after he said he was denied access to a nude Korean spa for women only. But attorneys say the man had never set foot on the property.

Juliana Chan Erikson

Juliana is a correspondent covering marriage, family, and sexuality as part of WORLD’s Relations beat. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Juliana resides in the Washington, D.C., metro area with her husband and three children.

Thank you for your careful research and interesting presentations. —Clarke

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