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19 States Plan to Offer Refuge to Trans Youth & Families

Scott Wiener

The states have plans to protect these families from penalties for seeking gender-affirming health care.

Lawmakers from 16 states have announced plans to introduce what they call "trans refuge legislation," aimed at shielding transgender youth and their parents from penalties for seeking gender-affirming health care.

They will join three states where such bills have already been introduced -- California, Minnesota, and New York. "We're sick of just playing defense against what these red states are doing," California state Sen. Scott Wiener told the Associated Press Monday. "We're going on offense, we're going to protect LGBQT kids and their families, and we're going to build a rainbow wall to protect our community."

The states joining in the campaign are Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia, according to a joint announcement from Wiener, the LGBTQ Victory Institute, Equality California, and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. A total of 21 LGBTQ+ legislators from these states have committed to introducing trans refuge bills.

The bills will differ from state to state, but one introduced by Wiener provides a model regarding protections for families who take refuge. It "would reject any out-of-state court judgments removing children from their parents' custody because they allowed gender-affirming health care" and "would make arrest warrants based on alleged violation of another state's law against receiving such care the lowest priority for California law enforcement," the AP reports.

Minors' ability to receive gender-affirming care is under attack in several states. Alabama recently passed a law making it a felony to provide this care to people under 18, with punishment of up to 10 years in prison for violation. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered that parents who allow their children to access such care be investigated for child abuse; that order is temporarily blocked by a court while a lawsuit against it is heard.

"When trans kids' lives are on the line, playing defense doesn't cut it," Victory Institute President and CEO Annise Parker said in a press release. "It's time to play offense. We are using the collective power of LGBTQ state legislators all across the nation to launch a counteroffensive that aims to protect trans kids and parents while also demonstrating that there is a positive agenda for trans people that lawmakers can support. While LGBTQ elected officials will fight tooth and nail to get these passed in every state, now we need allies to step up to help us get it done. And even in states that have little chance of these bills advancing, the message it sends is still incredibly important: Trans kids need to know they have leaders standing up and fighting for them."

"Politicians across the country are playing games with people's lives by criminalizing the fundamental right of trans youth and their families to seek gender-affirming health care," said Minnesota state Sen. Scott Dibble, one of the lawmakers behind a refuge bill. "While we cannot stop these despicable laws from being enacted in other states, we can make sure that these youth and their families can safely receive the care they need in Minnesota, without fear or hatred."

"It is clear that politicians are using vulnerable trans people to stoke fear and hatred to win elections," added Washington state Sen. Marko Liias. "We will not allow our state laws to be abused to serve their political agenda. I look forward to seeing Washington State join a coalition of states that are standing up for the rights and dignity of trans people."

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