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May 11, 2023Jefferson City, Mo. |  By: AP

Missouri lawmakers ban gender-affirming care, trans athletes; Kansas City moves to defy state


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers approved two bills Wednesday that ban gender-affirming health care for minors, and prevent transgender girls and women from participating on female sports teams. But Kansas City was preparing to defy the state, with its City Council set to vote on creating a sanctuary for people seeking gender-affirming treatment.

Transgender minors in Missouri would no longer have access to puberty blockers, hormones or gender-affirming surgery under one bill passed by the Republican-led House. The ban affects some adults — Medicaid health care won’t cover any gender-affirming care in the state, and surgery will no longer be available to prisoners and inmates.

Another bill bans transgender student-athletes from joining girls’ and women’s teams from kindergarten through college, both at public and private schools. Schools that allow transgender girls and women to play on such teams would lose state funding.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign both bills, which would expire in 2027 thanks to concessions made through Republican negotiations with Senate Democrats.

Democrats wept during the House debate.

“To deny these children care is to deny them their very existence,” Rep. Joe Adams said.

The ACLU of Missouri said the two measures amount to “weaponization of the government.”

Missouri’s bans come amid a national push by conservatives to put restrictions on transgender and nonbinary people, which alongside abortion has become a major theme of state legislative sessions this year.

“When you have kids being surgically and or chemically altered for life for no good reason, yes, it’s time for the government to get involved,” Republican Rep. Brad Hudson told colleagues on the House floor Wednesday.

The governor had threatened to keep lawmakers working beyond the normal end of their session if they didn’t approve the gender-affirming care ban, which would take effect Aug. 28. The ban includes exceptions for minors already getting such treatments.

Republican State Rep. Chris Sander, who is gay, said he’s considering leaving his party after most of his GOP colleagues voted for the bills without allowing him to speak against them on the House floor.

“It’s not a partisan thing to be gay or trans,” Sander, who represents the Kansas City suburb of Lone Jack, told reporters after the vote. “It has nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat. They want to make it about party politics by zipping my lips.”

As the bills cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature, a City Council committee in Kansas City opened a hearing on a resolution to designate the city as a sanctuary for people seeking or providing gender-affirming care.

Supporters acknowledged that the city could face retaliation from the state.

But council member Melissa Robinson said, “I do believe in good trouble, and this might just be one of those lines of good trouble.”

The committee approved the resolution, forwarding it to the full council, which plans to consider it Thursday.

The proposed resolution says the city wouldn’t prosecute or fine any person or organization that seeks, provides, receives or helps someone receive gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers, hormones and surgery. It also says city personnel will make enforcing requirements against gender-affirming care “their lowest priority.”

“It would minimize the legal violence toward trans people in accessing gender-affirming care,” Merrique Jenson, a transgender woman and founder of a nonprofit that advocates for trans women of color, told the council committee.

At least 16 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors, and several states are still considering bills this year to restrict or ban care, creating uncertainty for many families. Florida and Texas have banned or restricted the care via regulations or administrative orders, and a bill to restrict care is on Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

At least 21 other states have passed restrictions on transgender athletes’ participation in sports.

California, Minnesota and Washington have declared themselves sanctuary states for gender-affirming care, as have the cities of Chicago; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and West Hollywood, California.

Missouri’s Republican attorney general, Andrew Bailey, now campaigning for the 2024 election, launched an investigation in February into St. Louis’ Washington University Transgender Center. A former staffer had complained that doctors were prescribing hormones too quickly and without enough mental health wraparound services. An internal Washington University review found no malpractice.

Bailey has since expanded his investigation to any clinic offering pediatric gender-affirming care in Missouri, and demanded records from a St. Louis Planned Parenthood where doctors provide such health care.

In April, Bailey took the novel step of imposing restrictions on adults as well as children under Missouri’s consumer-protection law. A judge temporarily blocked the limits from taking effect as she considers a legal challenge.