NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Gov. Bill Lee intends to sign a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors, but a civil rights group has threatened to sue if he does.
The legislation passed the state House in a 77–16 vote on Thursday, with three Democrats joining Republicans in voting for the bill. The Senate passed it last week.
If it becomes law, the legislation would prohibit surgeries, puberty blockers, and hormone treatments for transgender youth beginning July 1. Treatments that began before then would have to conclude by March 31, 2024. A medical provider who violates the ban could face fines and lose their license to practice.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee plans to sign the bill once it reaches his desk, according to a spokesperson.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to sue if it becomes law.
“Legislators are risking trans young people’s health, wellbeing and safety with this dangerous legislation,” ACLU Tennessee attorney Lucas Cameron-Vaughn said in a release. “We urge Governor Lee to veto this overreaching, discriminatory bill, or we will see him in court.”
Supporters of the bill argued gender-affirming care is harmful to minors, who are not mature enough to consent to such medical procedures.
“These children do not need these medical procedures as children to be able to flourish as adults,” Republican House Majority Leader William Lamberth said. “They need mental health treatment, they need love and support, and many of them need time to be able to grow up and become the individuals that they were intended to be.”
Opponents said the proposed ban would prevent transgender children from getting the care they need pursuant to medical standards.
“We need to allow doctors and families to make those decisions and we need to be honest about the treatments that are actually happening in our state,” Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said.
Republicans made banning gender-affirming care for minors a priority after conservative blogger Matt Walsh made a series of tweets last year about Vanderbilt University Medical Center treating transgender children. Amid a political firestorm, the hospital said it had performed an average of five gender-affirming procedures on minors each year since 2018, all of which were with parental consent and involved minors 16 years or older. None of the patients received “genital procedures,” the hospital said.
The Tennessee House also passed legislation Thursday to restrict drag shows in public places, which the governor plans to sign as well, according to a spokesperson.
Lawmakers are also considering a bill by House Speaker Cameron Sexton that would block insurance companies that cover gender-affirming care for adults or children in another state from contracting with TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program.