California bill would provide haven for trans youth and their parents

A protest against anti-trans legislation – Photo: Nikolas Gannon, via Unsplash

California lawmakers have approved a bill that would provide refuge for transgender youth and their families who are under investigation or facing eviction from their homes in cases where their parents have consented to allow them to receive puberty blockers or hormones.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), passed the Senate on a 30-9 approval vote Wednesday, agreeing to accept changes made by the state Assembly, which passed the bill with its own amendments on a 60-19 party line vote. The bill is now heading to the office of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign the bill.

Bill will protect transgender youth with supportive parents fleeing Alabama, Texas, Idaho or any other state that criminalizes parents of transgender children for allowing them to access gender-affirming care . The legislation aims to protect parents making decisions about their children’s health care from losing custody of their children or facing criminal charges for asserting their children’s gender identity or considering pursuing care related to transition.

Wiener’s bill would also offer protections to doctors, who are increasingly at risk of jail time if they prescribe treatments, or even refer trans-identified children to transition care specialists.

Nineteen other states are currently considering similar “shelter” bills as the number of Republican-led legislatures considering banning gender-affirming care increases. Bills to bar transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care have been introduced in at least 20 different states, with four states – Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Arizona – which successfully banned, although Arizona’s ban only prohibits surgeries for minors.

Some states, including Texas, have taken executive action to limit access to gender-affirming care by directing child welfare agencies to investigate parents of trans children who inquire or follow treatments like puberty blockers or hormone therapy, in the hope that the threat of losing custody of their children or placing them in foster care will cause families to stop asserting their transgender identity. Similarly, under Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming care, parents or doctors who allow trans youth access to banned treatments could face up to 10 years in prison.

Wiener’s bill has three main elements, the first prohibiting law enforcement in California from cooperating with any out-of-state individual or agency seeking to remove a child from the home because their parents have consented to allow gender-affirming care that would otherwise be permitted in California.

A second provision of the law prohibits California authorities from complying with any out-of-state subpoenas seeking health or related information about people who come to California to seek medical treatment. gender affirmation, if the subpoena aims to criminalize individuals or remove children from parental care to seek such care.

A third provision prohibits law enforcement from participating in the arrest or extradition of those seeking care that would otherwise be lawful in California, and states that any out-of-state criminal arrest warrant for a person who has violated another state’s ban on transgender-related health care is of “lowest priority” for California law enforcement.

A protester at a rally on April 28, 2021 outside the Texas State Capitol to protest anti-transgender legislation. – Photo: Equality Texas.

“We can’t sit idly by and let parents and doctors face criminalization for simply allowing trans kids to be who they are and get the health care they need,” said Vienna in a statement. “We must lead by example by demonstrating to trans children and their families everywhere that they will always have a safe haven in California. This “state of refuge” legislation is the start of a movement, and I’m proud of the work our coalition has done to get there.

Proponents of the bill note that transgender youth already face many barriers to receiving gender-affirming care, and that the process of starting puberty blockers or hormones, in consultation with parents of a minor, can be a long deliberative process. Some studies have also claimed that access to gender-affirming care reduces the risk of depression, psychological distress, and suicidal ideation among trans-identifying youth.

In an interview with Weekly Metro earlier this year, when he first raised the issue of a safe haven law, Wiener noted that the overwhelming majority of transgender minors do not undergo surgery, which means that laws prohibiting trans health care criminalizes things like puberty blockers, which are reversible and delay the onset of secondary sex characteristics to give post-pubescent minors more space to determine their identity and whether they wish to pursue others interventions, such as hormone therapy.

Wiener also questioned the wisdom of states threatening to remove trans children who receive gender-affirming care from their families by placing them in state foster care systems, which are usually already overcrowded, often providing young people with substandard care and offer little support. institutional, financial or emotional – once minors reach the age of 18.

“There is tremendous data from across the country that, first of all, LGBTQ children are overrepresented in foster care, are less likely to do well in foster care, and are more likely to end up homeless when they leave foster care,” Wiener said. “So many trans children in this world go through terrible family situations where their parents are unsupportive or hostile to them. And when you have parents supporting their trans kids, raising them, providing them with homes of affirmation, that’s a beautiful thing. The idea that we would say to these parents, that because you affirm and nurture and love your child, we are going to put you in jail and take your child away, that is so despicable and harmful.

Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona, via Unsplash.

Calling Republican-led legislatures that pass laws restricting transgender rights “uncontrollable,” Wiener said his bill is needed to clarify that California will not be complicit in enforcing the laws of other states that seek to dehumanize trans youth or demonize the parents who support them. He also expressed skepticism about lawmakers’ claims that such laws are being proposed out of concern for children struggling with their gender identity.

“We have seen for decades that LGBTQ people are political pawns and political pinatas for the right. What they’re doing is they’re picking different issues, whether it’s marriage equality or LGBTQ adoption or trans bathroom access or trans athletes, and now trans kids have access to health care. And then it mushrooms from state to state, where they demonize and target our community to score cheap political points,” he said.

“These measures are always deeply harmful, but this one is so beyond pale. The idea that we now have states threatening to put parents of trans kids in jail and then take those trans kids and put them in foster care is a campaign of terror,” Wiener said. . “It’s so important that California stand up and say, ‘Absolutely not. We are not going to participate in your campaign of terror against these families and we are not going to enforce your court orders separating these children from their parents. We’re not going to prioritize your arrest warrants and we’re not going to honor your subpoenas. »

Wiener also said he was motivated to act because he doesn’t think LGBTQ people can simply rely on the hope that the courts will strike down some of the laws as unconstitutional, despite ongoing lawsuits and injunctions challenging the law. enforcement of trans healthcare bans.

“People are saying, and I agree, that Governor Abbott’s actions are unconstitutional,” he said. “People say the courts are just going to strike down these laws. But my level of trust in the courts right now isn’t what it used to be. There are currently many highly political Trump appointees in federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. And I just don’t, we just can’t rely on the courts to do the right thing and repeal these laws. We must act here in California.

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