News (USA)

GOP governor signs first-of-its-kind law punishing adults who help trans kids get care

Gov. Bill Lee (R) of Tennessee
Gov. Bill Lee (R) of Tennessee Photo: Tennessee Governor's Office

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) has signed S.B. 2782, an amendment to a 2023 gender-affirming care ban that adds civil penalties for adults who help unemancipated minors travel out of state to receive an abortion or gender-affirming care without their parents’ consent. He signed the bill on Tuesday, making his state the first in the nation to pass this kind of law — it goes into effect on July 1, but is expected to receive immediate legal challenges.

While the law excludes ambulance drivers, emergency medical services personnel, and other transportation service providers, the Class A misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to one year in prison.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have emphasized that the law doesn’t ban parents from taking their own children out of state for gender-affirming care.

“OUTMemphis has provided navigation assistance for families seeking gender-affirming care for youth since the ban on care for minors passed last year,” said Molly Quinn, executive director of OUTMemphis. “Above all, we want these families to know help is available and that you don’t have to fear leaving the state to get your child the care that they need.” 

The state’s 2023 ban on gender-affirming care prohibits minors from receiving puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and, in rare instances, surgeries. The law also required trans young people who are already receiving gender-affirming care to end their treatment by March 31, effectively forcing them to detransition.

In late September 2023, a federal appeals court upheld Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

In his ruling, Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote that gender dysphoria “is a relatively new diagnosis with ever-shifting approaches to care over the last decade or two. Under these circumstances, it is difficult for anyone to be sure about predicting the long-term consequences of abandoning age limits of any sort for these treatments.”

Despite the court’s ruling, every major medical organization in the U.S. has recognized that gender-affirming healthcare is evidence-based, safe, effective, and can be medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria in young people, benefitting their overall well-being.

Adam Polaski, Communications & Political Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said, “It’s obvious that the Tennessee legislature is trying to intimidate families of transgender youth – piling additional fear onto the mountain of financial and logistical burdens that parents are grappling with in the face of the existing healthcare ban in Tennessee. But we want to be clear: This development does not block parents from traveling with their child out of state to access the healthcare they need and deserve.”

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