Tennessee Passes Bill Criminalizing Adults Who Help Minors Get Gender Transition Procedures

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
April 26, 2024US News
Tennessee Passes Bill Criminalizing Adults Who Help Minors Get Gender Transition Procedures
Police are seen surrounding the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville, Tenn., on June 4, 2020. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Tennessee lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill that would criminalize adults who help children access gender transition procedures without parental consent.

The legislation, SB 2782, sponsored by state Sen. Janice Bowling, cleared the Senate in a 24-4 vote. It was advocated by the Republican supermajority as crucial for safeguarding parental rights.

Under the bill’s provisions, any adult found recruiting, harboring, or transporting “an unemancipated minor” in Tennessee for the purpose of receiving a prohibited medical procedure related to gender transition would face criminal charges.

Such procedures are defined as those “enabling the minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent” with their sex “or treating purported discomfort or distress from a discordance between the minor’s sex and asserted identity,” regardless of where the procedure is carried out.

Violations would constitute a Class C felony, carrying penalties of three to 15 years imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000. The measure also permits civil action against those found to be in breach of the legislation.

Critics have voiced concerns over the broad scope of the legislation, highlighting potential repercussions for an adult who talks to an adolescent about websites that facilitate travel to other states for gender-transition services, commonly known as “gender-affirming care.”

In a related move, Tennessee lawmakers recently approved a bill targeting adults who assist minors in obtaining abortions without parental consent. That bill was often referred to as “anti-abortion trafficking.”

Its proponents seek to curb adults’ role in facilitating abortions for minors without parental or guardian approval. The language in that bill, passed one day prior, closely mirrors the language in SB 2782.

If enacted, Tennessee would become only the second U.S. state to criminalize such assistance in abortion procedures for minors, following Idaho. Moreover, it would mark the first instance of similar penalties being applied to adults aiding minors seeking gender-transition services.

Both measures were opposed by Democrats in the Tennessee legislature, with some arguments saying they infringed on free speech rights and others decrying the limitations they create in scenarios where some kids can’t talk to their parents.

State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, a Democrat, speaking on the statehouse floor, said that both bills “regulate the types of conversation people can have with each other,” reported Fox News. “We shouldn’t be trying to violate constitutional rights, and that’s what this is trying to do,” he added.

Meanwhile, his Democrat colleague, state Sen. Heidi Campbell, said that some children with gender dysphoria “find that their parents are people that they can talk to.”

“While I absolutely applaud efforts to support parental rights, I also think we need to think about the different scenarios in which relationships with parents are not necessarily healthy,” she said.

Ms. Bowling, the bill’s sponsor, responded by reading portions of the bill when asked for clarity by Ms. Campbell.

Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, has also enacted a ban on the use of state funds for hormone therapy or sex reassignment procedures for prisoners. However, this rule does not apply to state inmates who are already receiving hormone therapy.

It also prohibited public school employees from keeping secret the information that a child is identifying as another gender without informing their parents.

To the dismay of critics, the state also enacted a law that permits placing LGBT foster children with foster parents who don’t hold LGBT beliefs.

Mr. Lee, a Republican, has yet to disclose his stance on the bill, which now makes its way to his desk for signing, though in March 2023 he signed into law Tennessee’s prohibition on gender-transition procedures and treatments for minors, such as hormone and puberty blockers.

The law was challenged by groups but ultimately upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of the U.S. Court of Appeals, which found that the United States doesn’t have a “custom of permitting parents to obtain banned medical treatments for their children.”

The court acknowledged that gender dysphoria and related distress are real issues. However, the question is whether it is appropriate to allow the use of puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgery on individuals who are 17 years old or younger.

“This is a relatively new diagnosis with ever-shifting approaches to care over the last decade or two,“ the court’s opinion reads. ”Under these circumstances, it is difficult for anyone to be sure about predicting the long-term consequences of abandoning age limits of any sort for these treatments.”

However, last November, the Biden administration filed a petition with the Supreme Court to overturn Tennessee’s ban on gender transition procedures for minors. Although the nation’s highest court has not yet granted a writ of certiorari, or a review.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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