State lawmaker says LGBTQ people “are not punching bags for the right wing”
Responding to “a series of regressive transphobic laws and executive orders” in other states that target transgender youth, parents and medical providers, California legislators are poised to make their state a refuge for those seeking gender-affirming care.
Senate Bill 107, introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D), is headed to a final floor vote before the end of the legislative session Aug. 31.
“LGBTQ people, we’ve long been punching bags for the right wing,” Wiener said in an interview with The Imprint on Friday. “They try to demonize us and put targets on our backs. Now, they’re attacking LGBTQ youth — specifically now trans youth. It is really important for California to stand up and say, ‘we’re not going to tolerate that.’”
If signed into law by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom — who has a long track record of supporting LGBTQ rights — the bill would prohibit California courts from enforcing subpoenas that sought information about a patient’s gender-affirming medical care issued by courts in other states. The bill would prevent the medical records of transgender youth from being disclosed by health care providers and insurers in California.
According to a legislative analysis of SB 107, the bill “seeks to provide transgender youth and their families a refuge from the states passing these draconian laws.”
Treatment for young people diagnosed with gender dysphoria — psychological distress resulting from a mismatch between a person’s sex assigned at birth and their gender identity — is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. Such treatment has been found to decrease depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation and includes a range of medical and psychological care, including counseling, hormone therapy and puberty blockers.
In recent months, legislators in states across the country, with varying degrees of success, have pushed to ban medical care and protections for trans youth. They include Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia. While many of the anti-trans bills were ultimately defeated, a growing number of laws and policies nationwide continue to threaten doctors, therapists and even hospitals providing otherwise widely approved medical treatments.
On Friday, far-right Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia introduced a bill that would make it a felony at the federal level to prescribe puberty blockers or provide hormone therapy. The bill would make it illegal to perform gender reassignment surgeries on anyone younger than age 18, even though such surgeries are rare and typically discouraged by professionals. The legislation also seeks to ban using federal funds for gender-affirming health care.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott went so far as to call gender-affirming care child abuse, setting otherwise loving and supportive parents up for CPS investigations that could result in the removal of children into foster care.
The move has terrified Texas families, and drawn strong condemnation from the White House. In March, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights issued a statement clarifying that federally funded entities preventing people from accessing medically necessary care — including gender-affirming care — is “likely a violation” of the law, and encouraged the filing of civil complaints.
“Affirming a transgender child’s identity is one of the best things a parent, teacher, or doctor can do to help keep children from harm, and parents who love and affirm their children should be applauded and supported, not threatened, investigated, or stigmatized,” Biden said in a March public statement.
California, which was first in the nation to form an official caucus of openly-LBGTQ state legislators, and has passed a number of laws to support of LGBTQ people. Among them are laws to train educators to better support youth, to ensure better data collection health and safety, and to fund programs on trans-inclusive health care.
Yet other states appear undeterred in their opposition to such support. Alabama is now asking a federal appeals court to allow it to enforce a law passed this year that makes it a felony for anyone to “engage in or cause” a minor to receive puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or a surgical intervention. The law, which was halted by a preliminary injunction as it faces a lawsuit, would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a $15,000 fine.
“We know that attacks on LGBT people are nothing new, but we can’t deny there is a definite rise in legislative and political efforts to restrict the freedom of transgender people,” said Tami Martin, legislative director for Equality California, a LGBTQ civil rights organization and co-sponsor of Weiner’s SB 107. “We’re already seeing demonstrable harm to trans youth who are watching their rights being debated.”
Wiener introduced his bill to push back on such moves, he said during an interview with The Imprint.
“The goal is to protect people who are here in California from the laws of other states that seek to restrict gender-affirming care to the fullest extent possible,” Martin said.
With regard to child abuse-related provisions like the one called for by the Texas governor, SB 107 would prevent California from complying with those out-of-state mandates.
Under SB 107, Wiener said, “We’re not going to apply those laws in our courts, we’re not going to honor subpoenas, and our law enforcement is not going to participate.”
The law would also amend the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is aimed at providing a set of rules for handling family law matters between states. The act usually gives the courts in a child’s home state jurisdiction over custody and family law issues — except in emergencies. SB 107 would amend that list of emergencies to give California courts jurisdiction over cases in which a child is in the state to obtain gender-affirming health care.
Supporters of SB 107 include Planned Parenthood and groups representing insurance providers, midwives, public defenders and social workers.
Opponents of SB 107, which include many out-of-state groups, have also spoken out.
The groups — including the California Family Council, a conservative Christian policy advocacy group — claim “there is no universal medical agreement” about the best way to provide health care to “transgender-identified individuals.”
Without citing evidence, the council wrote that “the governments and medical institutions of the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Finland have rejected prioritizing ‘gender-affirming’ treatment in favor of an emphasis on mental health,” adding that “many doctors and medical professionals refuse to provide transitioning drugs and surgeries, especially on minors, knowing the long-term side effects and the lack of hard scientific evidence regarding the efficacy of ‘gender-affirming’ treatments.”
Yet a growing body of research shows that such treatment reduces anxiety, depression and suicidality among transgender and nonbinary youth. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that trans adolescents’ mental well-being was worse than their cisgender peers before treatment, but that they had “similar or better psychological functioning” compared after starting care that involved puberty blockers.
Wiener has said he hopes his legislation to protect trans youth and their families takes off nationwide. In the spring, he noted legislators from roughly 20 other states that already or were planning to introduce bills similar to SB 107.
“These kids have often been to hell and back — bullied, harassed, attacked physically — and they’re at a heightened risk for self-harm and suicide,” Wiener said. “And we have these right-wing Republicans who are targeting and demonizing them to score political points.”