20 US states launching refuge bills to protect trans kids from Republican attacks

Maggie Baska May 6, 2022
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A group of people hold up a sign that reads 'protect trans kids' in blue and pink

Lawmakers in 19 states are planning to introduce refuge bills that will protect trans kids and their families. (Hesther Ng/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

LGBTQ+ lawmakers in 20 states are going on the offence against anti-trans legislation by bringing forward bills to give refuge to trans youth and their families.

The coordinated effort to roll out trans refuge legislation was announced on Tuesday (3 May) by the LGBTQ Victory Institute, California senator Scott Wiener, Equality California and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. 

Wiener was the first to introduce such a bill – Senate Bill 107 (SB 107), in April.

At the time he said on Twitter that it would help “provide refuge” in California for “trans kids and their families from states that are criminalising them and [medical doctors], and threatening to remove trans children from their homes”. 

If passed into law, SB 107 would reject any out-of-state court judgments to remove children from their parents’ custody because they helped their child access gender-affirming healthcare.

It would also make arrest warrants based on the alleged violation of another state’s law against receiving gender-affirming care the lowest priority for California law enforcement. 

The bill would also prohibit California officials from complying with out-of-state subpoenas related to trans healthcare bans seeking medical or other related information about individuals who travelled to California for gender-affirming treatment.

Soon after Wiener’s bill was introduced, lawmakers in New York and Minnesota also brought forward trans refuge state bills. 

Now, Democrats in 17 other states – including Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Vermont and Maine – are planning to follow suit though many state legislatures are currently out of session or not accepting new bills at present. 

Wiener told PinkNews it was “absolutely despicable” and “terrifying” that some politicians are “so desperate to advance politically” that they’re “willing to advance their political careers on the backs of LGBTQ children”.

“They are willing to destroy families,” he said. “They’re willing to increase suicides among these kids because they know that this is red meat for their right-ring base.”

He’s “cautiously optimistic” that California can “pass the bill into law this year”.

He said lawmakers in other states, where they’re “too late in their legislative session” or on break, have indicated they’ll “work to pass the bill certainly next year” as everyone is “acting under very difficult circumstances”. 

“We want to pass a good law that’s going to be protective,” Weiner said, “So that if people need to leave their state and come here, we’re going to minimise the chances of anything bad happening.”

He added the bill was also about sending a “crystal clear message to these kids” and their loved ones – that there are “powerful people” in this world who “care deeply about them” and “we’re doing to have their backs”.

‘Cut and paste’ bills hurting trans youth and their families

Earlier this year, Texas governor Greg Abbott demanded state agencies to “conduct prompt and thorough investigations” of supportive families and doctors that helped trans youth access gender-affirming care. The order resulted in massive backlash, families being investigated and an ongoing legal battle challenging the order still rages in courts. 

2022 has seen GOP lawmakers propose more than 320 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, some of which are still being debated in state legislatures.

Of those, at least 140 directly target trans people, according to the Human Rights Campaign

Annise Parker – president and CEO of the Victory Institute, and the first openly gay mayor of Houston – told PinkNews these “cut and paste bills” are being “cranked out by right-wing think tanks”.

Under this “constant barrage”, Parker said it was time to move from a state-by-state approach to a mass effort.

“We have been dealing with them [the anti-LGBTQ+ bills] state by state, and it was time to shift from defence to offence and to put our legislators in a room together where they could talk to each other and discuss common goals and a common strategy,” Parker said. 

She acknowledged that some of these bills “will never pass”, but that it was about sending a message that LGBTQ+ lawmakers and allies are here to fight for trans rights in the long term. 

“The message we want to send to trans families and trans kids is that you’re seen, you’re heard,” Parker said. “We’re going to try to do whatever we can, we recognise there are places where these bills will never pass but it’s important to stand up and make the effort.”

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