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LGBTQ lawmakers in 19 states introduce laws to protect trans youth seeking medical care

SAN FRANCISCO, CA JUNE 24, 2018: California State Senator Scott Weiner waves to the crowd at the 2018 San Francisco Pride Parade
SAN FRANCISCO, CA JUNE 24, 2018: California State Senator Scott Wiener waves to the crowd at the 2018 San Francisco Pride Parade Photo: David Tran /

As more states criminalize gender-affirming care for transgender youth, LGBTQ lawmakers in 19 states are working to establish their states as safe harbors for trans kids and families persecuted by such laws.

The LGBTQ Victory Institute — an organization that supports LGBTQ political candidates — announced the effort on Tuesday. The plan will have LGBTQ lawmakers in 19 states introduce legislation that explicitly protects trans youth right to access medical care, such as puberty blockers, hormone treatment and medical procedures.

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The legislation would be modeled after a bill proposed in March by out gay California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D). Wiener’s bill would block any out-of-state efforts to investigate, prosecute or apprehend individuals who help trans youth access gender-affirming care in refuge states.

Similar legislation will be introduced by LGBTQ lawmakers in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia, the Victory Institute said.

As of May, 15 Republican-led states have either passed bans on medical care for trans youth or are considering similar laws. Some of the bans have equated gender-affirming care with child abuse and threatened to arrest parents of trans youth, de-transitioning their kids and placing them in state care. Others attack doctors and threaten them with jail time for providing gender-affirming care to trans youth.

Such laws go against the best practices of trans-related pediatrics outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association. The organizations find that gender-affirming medical care is medically necessary and reduces suicide and depression among trans youth.

“We’re sick of just playing defense against what these red states are doing,” Wiener said in an interview Monday. “We’re going on offense, we’re going to protect LGBTQ kids and their families, and we’re going to build a rainbow wall to protect our community.”

Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Institute, said that the safe harbor legislation is unlikely to pass in every state where it’s introduced. However, she hopes the effort will “drive the conversation and the debate, and to call on our allies proactively to step up instead of allowing ourselves to be targeted.”

“We would love to see these bills in states where there are more progressive legislatures,” Parker said. “But we also think it’s important that trans kids and their families out there see and hear legislators from our community standing up and defending them.”

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