Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed a controversial bill into law Saturday that would ban gender-affirming health care and hormone therapy for transgender children.
The panorama: The move follows similar legislation enacted in other GOP-led states amid a larger wave of anti-trans bills, many of which target youth.
Details: SB16, introduced by state Sen. Michael Kennedy (R-Alpine), a family physician, would ban gender reassignment surgeries and puberty blockers for transgender minors.
- The bill is more restrictive than the one Kennedy first introduced in the Senate last week. The initial bill included a moratorium on puberty blockers.
- On Friday, Kennedy said the bill was highly likely to face a legal challenge.
- “I’m afraid I’m going to be working on this for the rest of my political life,” he told the full Senate before it was approved.
In the meantime, The state Legislature is also taking up other bills that focus on the rights of transgender youth, such as a bill that would prohibit minors from changing the sex on their birth certificates.
What they are saying: “While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Senator Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue,” Cox said in a statement after signing the bill.
- “More and more experts, states and countries around the world are putting these permanent and life-altering treatments on hold for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.”
- “We will continue to push the Legislature for additional resources for organizations working to help this important Utah community,” he added.
Yes, but: Reputable medical associations, such as the American Medical Association, have warned of the negative mental health impacts such restrictions would have on transgender youth, who are more likely to face increased risk of suicide.
- A January 2022 survey by the Trevor Project found that more than two-thirds of LGBTQ youth said recent debates over state laws targeting trans people have harmed their mental health.
- “We see you and we love your beautiful children,” said Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) as she explained her negative vote and fought back tears.
- In a letter released Friday, ACLU of Utah Executive Director Brittney Nystrom said the bill is “fraught with numerous constitutional issues” and called on Cox to veto it.
It is worth noting: The bill comes nearly a year after the state Legislature passed a law barring transgender girls from competing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.
The panorama: The start of the 2023 state legislative sessions has seen lawmakers introduce more than two dozen bills targeting transgender healthcare.
- The Justice Department warned that blocking access to treatment could violate “federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth from discrimination.”
- The DOJ later sued Alabama over its ban, which criminalized certain types of gender-affirming care for trans youth.