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Last week in LGBTQ+ rights: Tennessee's ban on gender-affirming care goes into effect

The latest events impacting LGBTQ+ communities and their rights.

By Will Fritz - July 10, 2023
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Advocates gather for a rally at the state Capitol complex in Nashville, Tenn., to oppose a series of bills that target the LGBTQ community, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.
Advocates gather for a rally at the state Capitol complex in Nashville, Tenn., to oppose a series of bills that target the LGBTQ community, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Jonathan Mattise, File)

This series is a weekly roundup of LGBTQ+-related news, covering various laws and bans, as well as efforts to push back against them.

Over the weekend, a federal appeals court overruled a lower court that had blocked parts of Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors, allowing the ban to go into effect.

Earlier last week, the nonprofit news site The Virginia Mercury reported that the Virginia governor’s office ordered the removal of a state Department of Health webpage listing resources for LGBTQ+ youth. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the page was inappropriate for children.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed anti-LGBTQ+ bills, though it’s likely the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature will override his veto, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended a campaign video that attacked former President Donald Trump over his stances on LGBTQ+ rights.

Tennessee’s gender-affirming care ban for minors goes into effect immediately

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency stay on a lower court’s ruling that blocked parts of Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth; the ban has now gone into effect while the appeal awaits an expedited process. Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill in March, and it was originally set to go into effect July 1.

Judge Eli Richardson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, a Trump appointee, had previously blocked provisions of the Tennessee law, stopping the state from enforcing a ban on puberty blockers and hormone treatments, including a provision forcibly detransitioning minors by requiring them to halt gender-affirming treatment by March 31, 2024. His opinion left a ban on gender-affirming surgical procedures for minors in place. In a 2-1 ruling granting an emergency stay on Richardson’s ruling, the Sixth Circuit repeatedly cited and used language from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the federal right to abortion.

Writing for the majority, Sixth Circuit Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote, “The challengers have not shown that a right to new medical treatments is ‘deeply rooted in our history and traditions’ and thus beyond the democratic process to regulate.”

Sutton left some wiggle room on the court’s final decision, however.

“These initial views, we must acknowledge, are just that: initial. We may be wrong,” Sutton wrote. “It may be that the one week we have had to resolve this motion does not suffice to see our own mistakes.”

Sutton wrote that the Sixth Circuit will expedite the appeals process with the goal of having a final ruling by Sept. 30.

The circuit court’s decision stands alone among recent court decisions on anti-trans laws. District judges in Kentucky, Arkansas and Indiana have all blocked or struck down bans on gender-affirming care for minors. Florida’s ban on Medicaid payments for gender-affirming care was also struck down.

Virginia governor’s office removes webpage with LGBTQ+ resources

The administration of Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin removed a webpage on the Virginia Department of Health’s website displaying resources for LGBTQ+ children, according to news reports.

The Virginia Mercury reported on July 6 that it had obtained emails under a public records law request showing Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel had directed that the webpage be pulled down after receiving an inquiry from a Daily Wire reporter who later published a story titled “Virginia Dept of Health Promotes ‘Queer Kid Stuff,’ Chat For ‘LGBTQ+’-Identifying Teens.”

A version of the page saved in May, available on the Wayback Machine internet archive, shows links to an LGBTQ+ teen chat site called Q Chat Space, the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention nonprofit The Trevor Project, and the LGBTQ+-focused educational and entertainment media company Queer Kid Stuff, among other resources.

The Mercury reports that Virginia Department of Health staff were caught off guard by the removal.

“I’m noticing that the referenced webpage is no longer accessible and I’m having a bad case of deja vu,” Office of Family Health Services Director Vanessa Walker Harris said in one of the emails obtained by the Mercury. “What am I missing? I’m very concerned that staff were directed to remove the webpage without engaging [subject matter experts] in response to a politically motivated inquiry, yet again.”

A spokesperson for Youngkin defended the decision, writing: “In Virginia, the governor will always reaffirm a parent’s role in their child’s life. Children belong to their parents, not the state.”

North Carolina governor vetoes anti-LGBTQ bills

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on July 5 vetoed three bills targeting LGBTQ+ youth.

The bills would ban gender-affirming care for minors, place restrictions on transgender children’s ability to play sports on teams that align with their gender identity, and restrict discussions of gender and sexuality in classrooms, according to the Associated Press.

Cooper called the bills “a triple threat of political culture wars,” but his veto is not likely to stop them from becoming law: Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both houses of the North Carolina Legislature, and they have a history of overturning vetoes, most recently overriding Cooper’s veto of a 12-week abortion ban in May.

The Legislature returns from a recess on July 10.

DeSantis defends anti-LGBTQ+ video

Republican presidential hopeful and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down on a now-deleted campaign video that critics have described as homophobic.

The video, shared to Twitter on June 30, portrays former President Donald Trump as sympathetic to LGBTQ+ rights in comparison to DeSantis’ hardline positions.

“To wrap up ‘Pride Month,’ let’s hear from the politician who did more than any other Republican to celebrate it…” the DeSantis War Room Twitter account said in sharing the video.

The video appears to have been deleted sometime after July 7, but can still be viewed in a segment on “The Young Turks” online news program’s YouTube page.

On a July 5 episode of conservative personality Tomi Lahren’s web show, “Tomi Lahren is Fearless,” DeSantis defended the campaign video.

“I think identifying Donald Trump as really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream where he was having men compete against women in his beauty pageants, I think that’s totally fair game, because he’s now campaigning saying the opposite, that he doesn’t think that you should have men competing in women’s things like athletics,” DeSantis said. “And so we’ve been very clear on it, that we believe in protecting the rights of our girls and the rights of women athletes to be able to participate with fairness and with integrity.”

DeSantis continued with a snipe at trans identity.

“I think it’s an attack on women’s rights more broadly to say that gender is fluid, and I also think it’s an attack on the truth itself,” DeSantis said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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