Kansas measure would criminalize care for transgender youth

Kansas legislation that would make it a felony for doctors to provide medical treatments that help transgender youth transition is unlikely to get a hearing

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas legislation that would make it a felony for doctors to provide medical treatments that help transgender youth transition is unlikely to get a hearing, the head of the committee to which it has been assigned said Thursday.

Four conservative GOP members of the Kansas House introduced the measure Wednesday, drawing immediate and strong condemnation from the Legislature's first transgender member, its two other openly LGBTQ lawmakers and the executive director of the state's leading LGBTQ-rights organization.

“It turns off the medical interventions that a parent can seek for their child,” said Democratic Rep. Stephanie Byers, of Wichita, a transgender woman who was elected last year.

Byers added: “I've known who I am since I was — before kindergarten.”

The House health committee probably will not have a hearing for the measure because it has too much other work, such as proposals for modernizing the state's mental health system, said Chair Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican.

The bill would apply not only to performing surgery on transgender minors but also to other treatments, such as prescribing drugs to block the onset of puberty to prepare a child for transitioning. Under the measure, doctors could be sentenced to up to eight months in prison for “unlawful gender reassignment service" and lose their medical licenses for unprofessional conduct.

One of the Kansas measure's sponsors, rural northeast Kansas Republican Rep. Randy Garber, said it is designed to protect minors when they are “too young to be making those decisions.”

Asked about LGBTQ advocates' statements that transgender people often know from a young age that their identities don't match the gender assigned to them at birth, Garber said: “They probably know they want to get drunk, too, but we don't let them drink alcohol, do we? Or smoke, or whatever.”

Kansas is among at least eight states where lawmakers are considering such a measure. At least seven states are considering proposals to restrict transgender students' participation in sports, a measure that was introduced in the Kansas House last year but died without getting a hearing. Lawmakers in Montana and South Carolina are considering both ideas.

“Ever since (same-sex) marriage was declared constitutional, they've changed their targets,” said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas. “Instead of going after grownups, almost every single one of these bills across the country has been targeted at little kids.”

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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