Georgia bans most transgender daycare for children under 18

Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks at a campaign event in Kennesaw, Georgia, United States, November 7, 2022. Photo by Dustin Chambers/REUTERS

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia will ban most gender-specific surgery and hormone replacement therapy for transgender people under the age of 18 with a new law signed into law Thursday by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Lawmakers on Tuesday finally approved Senate Bill 140, despite impassioned appeals from Democrats and LGBTQ advocates against the most controversial bill of Georgia’s 2023 legislature. Kemp signed the bill privately, without the ceremony the governor sometimes uses to sign new laws celebrates.

“I appreciate the many hours of respectful debate and deliberation by members of the General Assembly that led to the final passage of this bill,” Kemp said in a statement. “As Georgians, parents and elected leaders, ensuring our children’s bright, bright future is our highest responsibility – and SB 140 is taking an important step towards fulfilling that mission.”

It’s part of a nationwide effort by conservatives to restrict transgender athletes, gender-affirming care and drag shows. Governors in Mississippi, Utah and South Dakota have signed similar bills into law.

Opponents consider the new law to be an unconstitutional encroachment on parents’ rights. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said it would “use every legal means at our disposal” to prevent the law from going into effect shortly after Kemp signed it. Judges have — at least temporarily — blocked legislation restricting gender-based treatment of transgender youth in Arkansas and Alabama.

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Doctors could still prescribe drugs to stop puberty under Georgia law, but Republicans say restrictions on other treatments are needed to prevent children from making decisions they will later regret. The law goes into effect on July 1 and says minors who are already on hormone therapy can continue it.

But opponents say the measure is based on disinformation and a desire to open a new front in the culture war to please conservative Republican voters, arguing that it targets vulnerable children and interferes with private medical decisions.

The bill was amended to remove a clause that specifically shields physicians from criminal and civil liability. This change was driven by conservative groups who want people who later regret their treatment to have the option to sue their doctor, although it’s unclear how large that group might be.

Opponents said the measure would harm transgender children and force doctors to violate standards of care. They also accused Republicans of abandoning their previous commitment to parents’ right to make decisions.

Transgender youth and parents have campaigned vigorously against the bill in recent weeks, warning lawmakers that they are further marginalizing a group already prone to suicide in worryingly high numbers.

Republicans denied they wanted to harm anyone and said they care about the best interests of children and want people to have an opportunity to seek advice.

Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks at a campaign event in Kennesaw, Georgia, United States, November 7, 2022. Photo by Dustin Chambers/REUTERS