News (USA)

New Washington law will protect trans youth seeking gender-affirming care

Transgender flag being waved in a crowd
Photo: Shutterstock

Washington state’s Democratic governor signed into law this week a bill protecting young people seeking reproductive or gender-affirming care.

S.B. 5599 allows minors seeking legal reproductive or gender-affirming health care to remain in licensed youth shelters without notifying their parents. Previously, shelters were required to contact a minor’s parents within 72 hours if they turned up at the shelter, unless they were being abused or neglected. S.B. 5599 adds a new exception to parental notification. Under the new law, shelters can contact the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families instead.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed the bill this week.

“With this bill, Washington leads the way by taking a more compassionate, developmentally appropriate, and reasoned approach to support these youth as they access gender-affirming treatment and reproductive health care services,” Inslee said.

Opponents of the bill have flagrantly mischaracterized it as an attempt by the state to seize custody of children whose parents deny them gender-affirming care. But as the Associated Press reported after the bill was passed by the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature in April, S.B. 5599 does not address custody and will not result in children being taken out of the parents’ care. The bill, instead, is designed to ensure that youth who have run away or been kicked out by their parents are able to remain in shelters.

“There’s no procedure in here whatsoever that talks about taking children away,” Seattle University law professor Deirdre Bowen said. “It is not remotely what this bill says.”

In a February Seattle Times op-ed, the bill’s sponsors, state Senators Marko Liias (D) and Joe Nguyen (D), said that S.B. 5599 is about trans teens not fearing that they’ll be sent back to their parents if they are socially transitioning and ran away or were kicked out of their homes.

“It is also critical that we make abundantly clear that the focus of this bill is not about taking away parental rights, but rather supporting young people who may be in unsafe environments,” the lawmakers wrote. “Children – no matter their age, gender identity, or background – are entitled to safe spaces where they have the freedom to express their true selves. Washington must clear the path to ensure success for every child.”

“We believe it is better to have a young person in a shelter with some adult supervision than having them out living on the streets — maybe being trafficked, sexually trafficked, maybe being exposed to drugs,” Inslee said of the legislation in April.

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