Georgia Legislature Sends Gov. Bill Limiting Transgender Grooming To Minors

A bill restricting the care of transgender children by doctors in Georgia is awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature after it passed the Senate for the second time on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 140, drafted by Cordele Republican Sen. Carden Summers, would ban doctors from performing gender-confirming surgery or prescribing hormone replacement drugs to Georgians under the age of 18. Children who are already taking hormones when the law goes into effect can proceed.

“I want you to understand where I’m coming from with SB 140 and I want to honestly tell you how compassionate I feel that we are truly protecting children’s lives by not offering life changing drugs and of course the surgeries that are completely are irreversible,” Summers said.

Advocates say that a very small number of transgender minors receive top surgery — masculinizing or feminizing the patient’s breast — and bottom surgery is even rarer.

“They were screaming ‘castration, mutilation and sterilization,'” said Elizabeth Wagner, a Gwinnett mother of a transgender child. “That’s their rallying cry to target the kids. It’s not fact based.”

While the law would prevent minors from taking testosterone or estrogen, it would allow drugs that delay the onset of puberty.

Summers and proponents say it will allow children to defer a decision about more permanent treatments until they are older.

“What we’re doing here is that we’re preventing minors under the age of 18 from making irreversible changes in their lives,” said Republican Senator Ben Watson, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “These changes, whether surgical, which could and can be done here in the state of Georgia, or whether it involves hormone replacement therapy, i.e. testosterone or estrogen, result in irreversible changes in the minor or child’s body.”

Senator Ben Watson. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Senators reiterated their support for the law in a party-line vote after a House committee removed language protections of prescribing doctors from civil or criminal liability, the top item on the wish-list of conservative lobbyists who support the law support law. Doctors could also lose their license to give hormones to children.

Proponents have argued that medical associations are recommending a supportive approach for children struggling with gender dysphoria, which could include hormone therapy, and said the bill could force doctors to choose between what’s best for their patient keeping, or complying with the law.

Watson, a Savannah doctor, said the change gave him pause.

“I certainly have fears or challenges related to it, but I think ultimately we should never be above the law from a criminal or civil standpoint,” he said.

Watson cited the example of Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s private doctor, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for accidentally fatally overdosing the pop icon.

“It wasn’t a misconduct. That was criminal,” Watson said. “And sure enough, he was convicted. In fact, he served time for it. I think he can still serve time for that. This is what we are discussing when we refer to it. Doctors should by no means be above the law.”

Senate Democrats took turns fiercely berating the law, arguing that lawmakers have no right to tell doctors how to practice medicine or tell parents how to raise their children.

Atlanta Democratic Senator Elena Parent pointed to other Republican bills that enshrine parenting rights when it comes to mask-wearing or classroom discussions of sensitive issues.

“That’s the definition of hypocrisy,” she said. “The rule seems to be that if those parents are making choices that we agree with, then we’re for parental rights, and if we don’t like the choices they’re making, then we intend to ban those choices.”

In an unexpected legislative maneuver, Sandy Springs Democratic Senator Josh McLaurin requested a Senate adjournment, prompting lawmakers from side rooms to rush into the Senate chambers to vote to continue. McLaurin then castigated his colleagues for not listening to the testimonies.

Senator Josh McLaurin. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

“We’re coming back for a motion for an adjournment,” he said. “We’re ready to show up when it’s time to hold the Force, but we’re not ready to show up when it’s time to let those messages in, when it’s time to listen to people in the hallway.” .”

McLaurin was referring to LGBTQ activists who had gathered outside the chamber to urge lawmakers to vote against the law. Transgender people and advocates also flocked to committee meetings discussing the bill, but many did not have a chance to testify because of meeting time limits set by Republicans.

Among those hoping to speak to lawmakers were Ellie Nease and Magnolia Poeling, Savannah high school seniors and activists at the Deep Center, a youth-focused nonprofit.

Poeling said she wanted to speak to lawmakers on behalf of her friends and family.

“I’m actually the president of the Gay Straight Alliance at my school, so I hear stories from people close to me, but I also have a family member who is trans,” she said. “And he’s an elderly person, and I’ve heard his stories of the neglect and hate he faced as a trans person in the South. So I feel like I’m here today because he didn’t have the opportunity to live his life to the fullest.”

Nease said reaching the senators outside the chamber was a challenge

“We tried that with some senators, they refused to come out,” she said. “It was frustrating because you sign a note that says this person wants you to be here to talk to you about something they think is important and then you send the note to the Senate and then they have Senator the option to do either come out or not.”

Wagner said she has been reaching out to senators since shortly after the bill was introduced, and she feels similarly ignored.

“I used to send them emails saying, ‘This is my kid, we’re a good family,’ but then I realized they didn’t care,” she said. “So the last email I sent them was, ‘You’re going to be on the wrong side of history.’ I’m just letting you know that history has shown us what happens when people believe that people who are different don’t deserve life and respect. They will answer that. This is how they are remembered.”

Last year, Kemp lobbied for a bill that would allow transgender student-athletes to be banned from participating in girls’ school athletic teams. He has been largely silent on this year’s bill, and his office did not say Tuesday if he intends to sign it.

“Once the bill reaches the governor’s desk, it will undergo a thorough review process,” spokesman Garrison Douglas said. “An announcement will be made once a decision has been made.”