Missouri lawmakers passed two bills Wednesday that would bar transgender athletes from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender and ban gender-affirming care for minors, the latest state to advance such legislation as transgender rights have become a marquee issue for the Republican Party.
The state House passed both bills largely along party lines Wednesday, after the state Senate approved them in March. They now head to the desk of Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who has expressed support for the legislation and is expected to sign them.
One of the bills passed, SB49, would limit minors’ access to gender-affirming care, which spans a range of evidence-based treatments and approaches that benefit transgender and nonbinary people. The types of care vary by the age and goals of the recipient, and are considered the standard of care by many mainstream medical associations.
If enacted, the bill would bar health care providers from performing gender transition surgeries, although such surgeries are not typically done on children and many health care providers do not offer them to minors.
Puberty blockers and hormone treatments for minors would also be banned until August 2027, but the legislation makes an exemption for those who begin receiving treatment before its effective date on August 28, 2023.
This bill follows an emergency rule issued by the state’s Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey last month that put limits on gender-affirming care for minors and adults. The rule has been paused through at least July 20 as a lawsuit plays out.
Republicans, including the governor, have argued that the bill is about protecting minors from permanent health treatments.
“All children, regardless of their gender or orientation, are invaluable and should not be subjected to potentially irreversible surgeries and treatments prior to adulthood,” Parson tweeted Wednesday.
However, opponents slammed the lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill, saying that “erasing trans youth is just the start of the despot tactics” that lawmakers are willing to utilize to target “vulnerable Missourians.”
“Gender-affirming care saves lives,” said the American Civil Liberties Union chapter of Missouri in a statement. “The Jefferson City politicians’ intentional choice to abuse transgender Missourians will devastate trans people and their families.” The ACLU was one of several advocacy groups that filed a lawsuit against the attorney general’s rule last month.
Lawmakers on Wednesday also passed SB39, which prohibits public and private schools, including colleges, from allowing students to participate in gendered athletic competitions that do not match their biological sex as listed on a birth certificate or government record, or from competing against a team without such a policy.
“The presence of biological males in women’s sports limits fair competition for hard-working female athletes,” Parson said in a tweet. “Women & girls fought hard for the equal rights they enjoy today, and they should not be deprived of athletic opportunity due to biological advantages of the opposite sex.”
However, a 2017 report in the journal Sports Medicine that reviewed several related studies found “no direct or consistent research” on trans people having an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers, and critics say this legislation adds to the discrimination that trans people face.
So far this year, 13 states have placed restrictions on transgender youths’ access to gender-affirming care, including Oklahoma’s care ban earlier this month. According to the ACLU, more than 470 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced nationwide this legislative session.
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