Respect Equality

Newsom signs bill to make California a refuge for transgender youth and families

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, right, prepares to announce his proposed measure to provide legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Story at a glance

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday signed into law a bill to safeguard transgender minor and their families from out-of-state legal acton if they travel to California to receive gender-affirming health care.

  • The new law is a response to dozens of measures introduced this year that restrict or outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

  • The law will take effect Jan. 1.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday signed into law a bill to make the state a refuge for transgender youth and their families.

The measure, effective Jan. 1, is designed to shield families with transgender youth under 18 from being criminally prosecuted if they travel to California to obtain gender-affirming health care for their children from states where treatments including puberty blockers and hormones have been decried as “child abuse” by elected officials.

“States across the country are passing laws to demonize the transgender community, especially transgender youth and their parents,” Newsom wrote Thursday in a signing statement.

“In California we believe in equality and acceptance. We believe that no one should be prosecuted or persecuted for getting the care they need – including gender-affirming care,” Newsom wrote. “Parents know what’s best for their kids, and they should be able to make decisions around the health of their children without fear.”

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More than a dozen states this year have introduced legislation to heavily restrict – or outlaw – gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.

In May, Alabama became the first state in the nation to enact a felony ban on providing gender-affirming medical care to a minor, though part of the law was blocked shortly after by a court order. Since then, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has introduced federal legislation to make it a felony – punishable by up to 25 years in prison – to provide gender-affirming care to youth under 18.

Other states including Idaho have introduced, but failed to pass, legislation to criminalize both providing gender-affirming health care to a minor and leaving the state for the purposes of obtaining gender-affirming health care for a minor.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed state agencies through executive action in February to open child abuse investigations into the parents of transgender children. A state judge earlier this month expanded an existing order that had blocked the state from probing specific families, but a handful of investigations remain open.

The Texas legislature, which meets during odd-numbered years, failed last year to pass a ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.

“The hate demonstrated by these laws is unfathomable and has contributed to soaring suicide rates,” Newsom wrote Thursday. “This is unacceptable – we must fight for our youth and their parents.”

More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth surveyed by the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention group The Trevor Project this year said they had seriously considered suicide sometime in the last year. Nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary young people reported attempting suicide in the past year.

Major medical associations have said gender-affirming health care for both transgender minors and adults is medically necessary and often life-saving.

Under the new California law, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), state health care providers, insurance companies and contractors are prohibited from releasing information related to an individual or entity that provides gender-affirming medical care to a minor in response to a criminal or civil action that is based on the laws of another state.

“As so many states work to erase trans kids and criminalize their families, California must always have their backs,” Wiener said Friday in a statement. “With SB 107 signed into law, California is forcefully pushing back against the anti-LGBTQ hatred spreading across parts of our nation. The rainbow wave is real, and it’s coming. Thank you, Governor Newsom, for standing with our community.”

Wiener’s bill is co-sponsored by nonprofit groups Equality California, Planned Parenthood and TransFamily Support Services, as well as California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D).

The now-law also limits the ability of state law enforcement to make an arrest or participate in the extradition of a parent that has traveled to California with their minor child to receive gender-affirming health care from a state where it is illegal. Law enforcement are also barred from enforcing orders from other states that authorize a child to be removed from their parent because they were permitted to receive gender-affirming health care in California.

At least 16 other states have committed to introducing similar legislation.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) in July enacted a law that protects access to gender-affirming health care under the state constitution and prevents state agencies from complying with extradition requests from other states pursuing criminal charges against individuals who received, assisted with or performed medical care that is legal in Massachusetts.

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