Tennessee moves closer to ban on serving trans youth; promised lawsuit

The Republican-led Tennessee Senate passed a measure on Monday that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, spurring civil rights groups to pledge prompt prosecution if and when it becomes law.

The 26-6 vote in the Senate keeps the bill on a fast track to passage, although there is more work to be done on the House side. Republican Party legislative leaders and Republican Governor Bill Lee spoke favorably of the ban even before the bill was introduced.

“I believe that every Tennessean should have the opportunity to live a life of purpose and dignity in a lawful manner they choose. And if that involves seeking permanent, irreversible changes to your body, I support your right to do so – when you’re an adult,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a Republican.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee and Lambda Legal pledged on Monday that they are preparing a lawsuit.

The pressure in Tennessee comes as U.S. state legislators come forward with attacks on gender-affirming medical care for young people. Similar bills are being introduced in Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota. In Utah, the Republican governor recently signed a ban, and judges temporarily blocked similar laws in Arkansas and Alabama.

However, Tennessee in particular has been caught at the center of this conflict since a video surfaced on social media last year of a Nashville doctor touting that gender-affirming procedures are “big moneymakers” for hospitals.

The video sparked calls from Tennessee Republican leaders for an investigation into Vanderbilt University Medical Center, but at this time it is unknown if any officials have done so. The private, non-profit hospital said it had only provided a handful of gender-affirming surgeries for minors over the years, but had temporarily put the procedures on hold to revise its policies.

On average, VUMC has provided five gender-affirming surgeries for minors every year since its transgender clinic opened in 2018. All were over 16 and had parental consent, and none received genital procedures.

Meanwhile, GOP leaders used the incident to try to expand Tennessee’s ban on transgender medical treatment for children. These services have been available in the US for over a decade and are endorsed by leading medical associations.

“We are raising issues that take away people’s freedom and focusing on things that people have to fight for so they can be who they are,” said Democratic Senator Heidi Campbell

If the Senate version passes, doctors would be banned from providing gender-affirming care to anyone under 18, including prescribing puberty blockers and hormones.

However, the legislation sets out some exceptions, including allowing doctors to perform these medical services if the patient’s care began before July 1, 2023, when the ban is proposed to take effect. The bill then states that this service must end on March 31, 2024.

“Tennessee lawmakers appear intent on joining the growing list of states determined to compromise the health and lives of transgender youth, in direct opposition to the overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence that supports such care as appropriate and necessary,” the statement said. attorney for Lambda Legal Staff for Youth Sruti Swaminathan in a statement. “And just as we have done in other states engaged in this anti-science and fear-mongering of discrimination, so will we in Tennessee and will challenge this bill if it passes.”

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