Civil rights groups threaten swift legal action if Oklahoma bans gender-affirming care

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
The state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 30, 2018.

Three civil rights groups have vowed to take “swift legal action” against a slate of proposed restrictions on gender-affirming health care for transgender youths and adults in Oklahoma should any of them become law.

Lawmakers have introduced at least 15 bills threatening to severely limit access to treatments including puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries for transgender individuals. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature officially convenes on Feb. 6.

A majority of the proposed measures would bar minors from receiving gender-affirming health care, mimicking bills that were successfully passed in Alabama and Arkansas but later enjoined by federal court orders. Another Oklahoma bill seeks to prevent transgender adults as old as 26 from accessing care – a sharp pivot from a popular conservative argument that legislative efforts to crack down on transgender health care are intended to protect children.

A nearly identical bill — titled the “Millstone Act” in a reference to a Bible passage about punishing sinners — was introduced earlier this month in South Carolina.

In a joint news release issued Thursday, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Oklahoma warned of impending legal action against any restrictions on gender-affirming health care signed into law in Oklahoma.

“Enacting an ideological agenda driven by ignorance and prejudice, instead of science and compassion, is not the way forward,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, counsel and health care strategist at Lambda Legal, said Thursday in a statement.

Gender-affirming health care for youth and adults is considered medically necessary and often lifesaving by most major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“We urge the legislature and the governor to not adopt any measure that endangers the health, well-being, and very lives of transgender Oklahomans,” Gonzalez-Pagan said Thursday. “We will not hesitate to defend transgender Oklahomans’ rights to equality, liberty, and nondiscriminatory access to the health care they need.”

“All Oklahomans deserve the support and care necessary for the opportunity to thrive, including our transgender community,” Megan Lambert, legal director at the ACLU of Oklahoma, said Thursday in a statement. “Gender-affirming care is a critical part of helping transgender youth and adults succeed in life by establishing healthy relationships with their friends and family and by living authentically as themselves.”

“Make no mistake,” Lambert said, “this is a promise of legal action should any of these bills be signed into law.”

In September, all three organizations filed a lawsuit challenging an Oklahoma law passed last year that bars transgender students from using the restroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity.

In October, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a law blocking one of the state’s largest hospital systems from receiving federal funds if it continues to offer gender-affirming health care to transgender youth.

In a signing statement, Stitt called on the legislature to ban “all irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors” during the 2023 legislative session.

Tags Oklahoma Transgender rights

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