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Georgia lawmakers pass ban on gender-affirming treatment for trans youth

Georgia senators on Tuesday voted to severely restrict access to gender-affirming care for minors, despite fierce opposition by Democrats and LGBTQ rights advocates.

Senate Bill 140 — which prevents doctors from prescribing hormone therapy or performing gender-affirming surgeries on trans people under 18 — now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature, though his spokesperson hasn’t said whether he plans to sign it into law.

The bill was approved on a 31-21 vote along party lines, with Senate Republicans voting strongly in favor of the measure.

SB 140 passed the Senate on March 6, and then the House 10 days later. It went back to the Senate for final consideration after an amendment.

Opponents of the measure say the bill would be an unconstitutional infringement on parents’ rights and hurt trans youth.

“Broadly speaking, this really is about us bullying children to score political points, and that to me is extraordinarily disheartening,” Sen. Kim Jackson, the chamber’s only openly gay member, said from the floor Tuesday.

Some Democrats accused Republicans of being hypocritical for disregarding their previous support of giving parents the power to make decisions for their kids.

“The rule does seem to be that we are for parental rights when parents make decisions we agree with, and when they make decisions we don’t agree with, we outlaw them,” said Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat.

The executive director of Georgia Equality, Jeff Graham, echoed the senator’s sentiment.

“Parents, working in collaboration with their medical teams and adhering to standards of care, should be able to make decisions regarding their child’s healthcare,” he said in a statement, urging Kemp to veto “this harmful legislation.”

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Gender-affirming care is considered “a supportive form of healthcare” that improves “the mental health and overall well-being of gender-diverse children and adolescents,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Rules banning such care are opposed by nearly all major medical associations in the U.S., including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Last week, a group of more than 500 medical professionals across the state of Georgia released an open letter expressing their opposition to the bill and urging “lawmakers to keep their politics out of our clinics.”

Christine Cox, center, a parent of a transgender teenager, becomes emotional after speaking to state Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, rear left, outside the Senate at the Capitol in Atlanta on Monday, March 20, 2023.

A 2021 peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, found that gender-affirming hormone therapy for people under the age of 18 was associated with nearly 40% lower odds of recent depression and of a past-year suicide attempt.

The bill is the latest example of an ongoing push by lawmakers in conservative states to restrict the rights of the LGBTQ community — especially transgender youth.

Last month, Mississippi became the nation’s third state to enact a similar ban in recent weeks. The governors of Utah and South Dakota have also signed similar bills into law, while a rule banning gender-affirming care for most transgender minors in Florida went into effect Thursday.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are more than 435 anti-LGBTQ bills currently moving in 37 state legislatures across the nation.

With News Wire Services

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