Tennessee GOP leaders pledge to ban care for transgender youth

NASHVILLE, TN — On Friday, Tennessee’s top Republicans vowed to push for some of the toughest anti-transgender policies in the United States at a rally on Friday, where hundreds cheered in support as rights activists LGBTQ people were shouting in protest.

The rally comes nearly a month after a video emerged of a Vanderbilt University Medical Center doctor saying gender affirmation procedures are “huge money makers” for hospitals. Another staffer said anyone with a religious objection should quit.

The videos quickly sparked outrage among GOP lawmakers, many of whom are running for office this year, who quickly called for an investigation into the Nashville hospital — though no law enforcement agency confirmed to do so. Meanwhile, VUMC says they’ve provided an average of five gender-affirming surgeries to minors over the age of 16 — none younger — every year since its transgender clinic opened in 2018, but they’ve since suspended these procedures to review their policies.

On Friday, Tennessee State Rep. William Lamberth and Sen. Jack Johnson, the GOP majority leaders in the House and Senate, promised that the first bill to be introduced for the upcoming 2023 session would be a prohibition of gender-affirming care for minors.

“We’ll do it, you have our word,” Johnson told the crowd.

Other speakers included Republican U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, conservative commentator Matt Walsh and former congressional candidate Robby Starbuck. The majority of speakers chastised and mocked those who booed and audibly disagreed.

Several members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group, were also present. Some placards carried by participants called for the murder of doctors who provided gender-affirming care to minors. Many exchanged curses, others tried to drown out the speakers by playing music and turning on sirens.

Tennessee has drawn attention over the years for introducing and enacting more anti-LGBTQ laws than any other state. This trend shows no signs of stopping due to the release of the leaked VUMC videos.

It is almost certainly expected that such proposals will be challenged in court. A federal judge has already blocked a law prohibiting doctors from offering sex-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18. Meanwhile, a similar law was blocked in Alabama in May. Both cases are still ongoing.

In 2021, Lee signed a law banning doctors from providing sex-confirming hormone therapy to prepubescent minors. To date, no one has legally challenged the law, as medical experts say no doctors in Tennessee do.

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