Utah Legislature passes bill to ban gender-affirming surgeries, put hold on hormone treatments for minors

Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, speaks to the Utah Senate prior a vote on SB16 on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Photo: Utah State Legislature/Screenshot

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Jan. 27, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — State lawmakers have passed a bill banning gender-affirming surgeries and putting a moratorium on new hormone treatments for transgender minors in Utah.

The Utah Senate voted 20-8 on Friday to support House amendments to Senate Bill 16, sending the controversial legislation to Gov. Spencer Cox for his consideration.

“All of our intent is not to harm but to help,” bill sponsor Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, said on the Senate floor prior to the vote. “And with great compassion, love and desire to help, all of this is focused on the fact that we’re trying to help children and families, even though I deeply respect that there are many that are not in agreement with that sentiment.”

Equality Utah, which advocates for equal rights for LGBTQ Utahns, has called SB16 “misguided policy” that threatens the rights of transgender children and their families.

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said lawmakers have received “so many emails, texts and phone calls” from parents concerned about what the legislation means to their children.

Escamilla became emotional as she promised Senate Democrats would continue to work toward “good public policy and try to mitigate the impact into their lives.”

“We see you and we love your beautiful children,” she said.

The House voted 58-14 to pass the bill Thursday, with amendments that make the legislation effective immediately upon approval by the governor and remove a sunset date on the moratorium, which opponents say makes the bill and outright ban.

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling SB16 “one of many being pushed by national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations across dozens of states that are designed to take aim at age appropriate, life-saving, medically necessary care for transgender youth.”

“Today, Utah legislators capitulated to extremism and fear-mongering, and by doing so, shamelessly put the lives and well-being of young Utahans at risk — young transgender folks who are simply trying to navigate life as their authentic selves,” Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel said in a news release.

“Every parent wants and deserves access to the highest quality health care for our kids. This discriminatory legislation bans care that is age-appropriate and supported by every major medical association, representing more than 1.3 million doctors. Medical decisions are best left to medical experts and parents or guardians, not politicians without an ounce of medical training acting as if they know how to raise and support our children better than we do,” Oakley said.

In addition to stopping gender-affirming surgeries and new hormone treatments for transgender minors, SB16 also requires the Utah Department of Health and Human Services to “conduct a systematic review of the medical evidence regarding hormonal transgender treatments and provide recommendations to the Legislature.”

It also creates licensing certification for for providing hormonal transgender treatments and addresses medical malpractice related to such procedures and treatments.

Kennedy said the Legislature expects a legal challenge to the legislation.

“I would bet every dollar that I have in my bank account right now that this will be litigated,” he said.


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