Idaho Lawmaker Statements Used Against Them In Gender Affirming Care Court Fight
Republican lawmakers past statements over transgender people and committee hearing records are heavily referenced in a new court case to overturn a gender affirming care ban in Idaho.
Please support my independent reporting and activism on transgender legislation by subscribing. You help me keep this going and keep people informed.
In a recent lawsuit by the ACLU and other law offices challenging Idaho's ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors, attorneys for the affected youth illustrated the critical importance of paying attention to committee hearings and getting legislators on the record. The court filing referenced GOP lawmakers' mischaracterization of gender-affirming care as "mutilation," along with their official social media posts labeling LGBTQ+ individuals as an "epidemic" that "must be stopped.”
The lawsuit also cited the intense public opposition to the ban in the committee hearings. It argued that government officials deliberately disregarded medical evidence and testimonies from transgender youth and their families during the law's creation. The suit concluded by asserting the ban's unconstitutionality on several grounds.
The lawsuit, revealed on Thursday, is against Idaho HB71, a law that bans gender affirming care for trans youth. Notably, the law has intense criminal penalties and labels providing gender affirming care “a crime of violence” with 10-year prison sentences. It does not grandfather youth who are already receiving care and goes against established medical guidelines and evidence that state the care is safe and effective.
In the legal filing, attorneys scrutinized remarks from hearings, which were attended by a large number of experts, family members, and trans people opposing the legislation. They identified several comments indicating that lawmakers exhibited prejudiced intentions during the drafting of the law. The attorneys highlight multiple occasions where lawmakers, such as the law’s sponsor Rep. Bruce Skaug, labeled the care as "mutilation," an offensive and derogatory term not recognized by medical professionals for this type of treatment (medical care recipients, for instance, would never be referred to as "mutilated"). The sponsors also confounded surgery, typically done on adult trans people, with puberty blockers and hormone therapy, which the law also blocks.
Furthermore, they discovered official government social media posts from Sen. Tammy Nichols, another co-sponsor, claiming that the LGBTQ+ community was an "epidemic" and that "states need to control the spread." Nichols also reportedly likened individuals receiving the care to “Frankenstein's monster.”
They detail these and other statements from the hearings and official accounts during the debate and hearings:
Likewise, the court filings state that the legislature refused to listen to medical experts and affected parties, disregarding clear evidence of discriminatory intent and impact in a way that serves no legitimate government interest and in an overly broad manner. The documents show that the hearings drew a huge crowd of those opposed to the legislation, including transgender individuals, physicians, parents, and caregivers. Due to the large turnout of stakeholders voicing opposition to the legislation, two additional rooms had to be opened to accommodate the crowd during the hearings.
In the filing, attorneys contend that the testimonies, especially those from parents detailing the positive impact of the care on their children, clearly highlighted the discriminatory effects of the law. The unanimous agreement among all Idaho medical organizations that testified during the hearing also underlined this point. Idaho lawmakers passed the law with little legitimate scientific and medical backing, serving no government interest, while interfering with numerous constitutional rights of those affected and while being made aware of those interferences.
The filing closes by stating that the law is discriminatory on several grounds:
Equal Protection - The law bans the treatment for transgender people, but does not ban it for intersex people, for cisgender kids with precocious puberty, for cisgender boys who have gynecomastia, for people who are short of statue and want to prevent their growth plates from fusing, and numerous other listed medical indications in which these medications are not banned. This means that the law unfairly discriminates against transgender people.
Due Process (Parental Autonomy) - The law disregards the parents’ rights to make medical decisions regarding the care of their children. Notably, this argument has seen some success in places like Arkansas. It also is not narrowly tailored and actually threatens the health and wellbeing if trans youth: “There is no rationale for the Healthcare Ban that can explain why only gender-affirming medical care—and all types of gender affirming medical care—is singled out for prohibition and the medical decision-making regarding this care is taken away from parents”
Due Process (Fair Notice) - The law would deceive Idahoans into thinking the law is constitutional, meaning it should be struck down before it goes into effect.
The law is not slated to take effect until January 2024. This filing indicates an extremely important point that many have raised about hearings for gender affirming care bans: attendance and expert testimony matters heavily. Republican lawmakers have been prone to make damaging statements when debating these laws, such as a Florida lawmaker who called trans people “demons, mutants, and imps.” These kinds of statements go a long way in helping prove the laws are driven by discriminatory intent and animosity rather than science and evidence. A federal judge in Idaho will evaluate the legislative conduct alleged; a hearing date has not yet been announced.
Erin In The Morning is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.