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This year, at least 12 states have passed legislation to limit or ban gender-affirming health care for young people, adding to several already in effect. In Missouri, restrictions announced last week by the state attorney general would apply to people of all ages. With pressing legislative sessions across the country, more restrictions could be on the way.
At the same time, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and New Mexico have passed laws to protect transgender health care through legal protections, coverage, and access to health care. On Friday, the Minnesota legislature is expected to pass a bill that protects young people and parents who seek health care and the providers who provide it.
“We’re going to lead on this issue,” Gov. Tim Walz, a second-term Democrat, said at a rally for LGBTQ rights last week. “And I want to emphasize that not only is your place here, but you’re needed here, you’re part of the fabric that makes Minnesota the best place to live in the country.”
Last year, California led the nation on the issue, calling itself a “safe haven” state for transgender youth and their families. Also this year, Democrats in Oregon are proposing a constitutional amendment to protect care. Washington State and Vermont have their own protection bills.
Minnesota: A final vote on Friday
On Friday, the Minnesota Senate will vote on a House-approved bill that would prevent courts or state officials from complying with requests for removal of children, extraditions, arrests or subpoenas related to child care. gender-affirming health a person is receiving or providing in Minnesota.
Physicians who practice gender-affirming care in Minnesota and families who have sought it for their transgender children or teens said the bill would go a long way to ensuring they can continue to access treatment without fear. the laws of other states. . Some said they have already seen an increase in potential patients from states where their options have been eliminated.
“Frequently, we’ll talk about gender-affirming care as life-saving health care. And we’re not saying that to be dramatic,” says Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, director of education and medical director of the Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota. Kade Goepferd says children who don’t have access to care “are at much higher risk for mental health issues, including suicide.”
Republicans in the state legislature have said this type of care can have lasting effects. They opposed extending legal protections to families traveling for gender-based care services.
“The bill makes Minnesota a sanctuary state for so-called gender-affirming care, while simultaneously violating the fundamental right of parenthood,” state Rep. Peggy Scott, a Republican, said last month. .
Gov. Tim Walz, who has championed the law, said he would sign it into law if it passes the state Senate.
Maryland: Expanding Medicaid Coverage
Effective January 1, 2024, the Maryland Trans Equity Act expands the type of gender-affirming treatments covered by the state’s Medicaid plan, aligning it with care offered by private insurers.
Medicaid in Maryland already offers gender-affirming treatments, but the list would expand to include the ability for individuals to change their hair, make changes to their face or neck, and alter their voice through to therapy. Many private insurers already offer these treatments and the law gives parity to those of Medicaid.
In 2022, approximately 100 people received gender-affirming care through the state’s Medicaid program. It is estimated that the law would increase this number by 25 people.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, a large body of research, providing gender-affirming care decreases rates of anxiety, depression, and other adverse mental health effects.
Colorado: Extensive Legal Protections
Last week, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill to ensure people from other states can come to Colorado for an abortion, to start puberty blockers or to receive gender-affirming care without fear of prosecution. The law also extends legal protections to gender-affirming abortion and care providers, and a separate law extends insurance coverage.
“Laws from another state that seek to punish providers of reproductive health or gender-affirming care do not apply in Colorado,” said Democratic state Rep. Meg Froelich, one of the main sponsors of the legislation.
The law, which took effect April 14, means Colorado will not participate in any out-of-state investigations involving providers or recipients of abortion or gender-affirming care. Similar to the Minnesota bill, which includes ignoring search warrants, arrests, subpoenas, summonses, or extraditions to another state, as long as the activity took place in Colorado and there is no indication that those involved violated Colorado law.
The idea of making Colorado a haven for trans people was first floated last year by Colorado’s only transgender state legislator, Democratic Rep. Brianna Titone. But Democrats have decided not to address the issue until this year.
Measures to expand legal protections and expand insurance coverage have been the subject of lengthy hearings and floor debates, but Republicans have not had the votes to defeat them.
Colorado Springs resident Cynthia Halversion testified against the bill to expand insurance coverage saying she feared it would open the door to “illegitimate practices and practitioners, to perform acts contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the safety and protection of all children.”
While many states have moved to restrict gender-affirming care for minors over the past year, none have so far passed laws punishing people who travel to other states to get themselves. cure.
Michigan: Developing the State’s Civil Rights Law
Michigan has not moved to explicitly protect gender-affirming care in the statue. Like some other states, however, it expanded the state’s civil rights to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, signed legislation last month to add these categories to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen civil rights law, which originally protected religion, race, color, origin nationality, age, sex, height, weight, family status or marital status.
“I’m so proud to be here and I’m thrilled to put our state on the right side of history,” Whitmer said as she prepared to put her signature on the bill. The decision capped nearly four decades of efforts to add LGBTQ protections to state law.
The changes passed Democratic majorities in the legislature over objections from Republicans and the Michigan Catholic Conference.
“While I fully support this original intent of the Elliott-Larsen Act and understand the importance of protecting individuals from discrimination, I also believe it is crucial to respect the religious beliefs of owners and employers of small businesses. businesses,” Republican State Rep. Rachelle said. Smith.
But former Rep. Mel Larsen, a Republican whose original law is partly named after, says gay rights were always meant to be part of the protections.