June 3, 2023

Republican efforts to limit sex reassignment treatment hit roadblocks in three states on Wednesday. Kansas lawmakers failed to override the Democratic governor’s veto on a bill that would have banned the care of minors, the Justice Department sued Tennessee over the new ban, and a judge in Missouri temporarily blocked enforcement of an emergency rule that would have limited the treatment of transgender children and adults.

Across the country, transgender rights have emerged as a defining legislative issue this year, with Republicans introducing sweeping new restrictions in states they control. At least 11 states have passed laws or policies in recent months banning or significantly restricting the use of puberty blockers, sex hormones and menopausal surgery for people under 18.

In recent weeks, new bans have been signed in Idaho, Indiana and North Dakota, with similar policies still under consideration in other states.

But a vote in the Kansas Senate on Wednesday upheld Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto over a bill that would have revoked the medical licenses of doctors who provided sex reassignment care to children and would allow people who received that treatment as children to call their doctors to sue. In Missouri, a state judge blocked new restrictions, which would go into effect Thursday, at least until Monday evening.

And in Tennessee, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that a ban on gender reassignment care for minors signed this year by Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“The right to consider your health and medically approved treatment options with your family and doctors is a right everyone should have, including transgender children, who are particularly vulnerable to serious risks of depression, anxiety and suicide,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

Mr. Lee called the lawsuit “federal overreach at its worst” and said the state would defend the law in court.

As Republicans have introduced new restrictions on transgender rights, including banning access to bathrooms and sports teams, they have argued that the measures protect children from making life-altering medical decisions they may later regret.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, we as legislatures have to be the last line of defense when parents are lost, when a health care system is lost,” said Senator Mark Steffen, a Republican from Kansas.

But LGBTQ rights groups have criticized the policy as bigoted attacks that go against best medical practice.

Major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender transition care and have said that bans pose serious mental health risks to young people, infringing not only on their rights, but also on the rights of doctors and parents.

Even when the Kansas legislature, where the Republicans hold a supermajority, couldn’t override Ms. Kelly’s veto on the ban on gender reassignment care, both chambers voted to override her objections to another bill that, among other things, would require prisons to have separate facilities. for prisoners based on their gender assigned at birth.

While most state changes are due to legislation, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey tried to use his state’s consumer protection law to limit transitional treatments. Mr Bailey’s emergency rule was set to take effect on Thursday and remain in effect until February 6, 2024. Unlike many other attempts this year to limit gender transition treatments, Mr Bailey’s restrictions would apply to both adults and minors. .

Mr Bailey, who was appointed to his position in January and is seeking election to a full term, said when announcing the rule this month significant guardrails were needed around transitional care due to what he described as insufficient medical literature on their long-term care. effects and risks.

The attorney general’s rule was not designed to ban transitional care, but set limits, including at least 18 months of therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist before new patients could receive puberty-suppressing drugs or surgery.

After hearing arguments about the rule Wednesday afternoon, a state judge delayed enforcement until at least Monday evening. The judge, Ellen H. Ribaudo of the St. Louis County Circuit Court, said she needed more time to go through the briefings and planned to rule Monday at the request of LGBTQ advocacy groups for a temporary restraining order.

Emily Cochrane reporting contributed.