Amid ongoing anti-trans legislation sweeping the country, some legislatures are looking to enact laws to safeguard the community’s rights.
By: Serena Sonoma
As over a dozen anti-trans bills are advancing in committees and legislative chambers in at least nine states including Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and South Carolina, other states are continuing to set the groundwork with policies to protect the trans community.
Recently pro-trans bills in Colorado, SB188; and in Oregon, HB2002, have been moving through their respective state legislatures.
The Colorado bill also known as “Protections For Accessing Reproductive Health Care” aims to protect individuals including trans people’s access to reproductive health care services and facilities, and prohibit discrimination based on reproductive decisions; and require health care providers to offer unbiased information about reproductive health care options. Furthermore the bill would protect those traveling from states with restrictive reproductive health laws to access care.
Rep. Brianna Titone, an Arvada Democrat and the state General Assembly’s first out transgender member, calls the bill “imperative” to protect patients and medical professionals who provide health care to transgender people.
“As laws around the country seek to prevent this care outside their borders, we need a shield to provide these essential services. SB188 will do just that,” she tells me.
Erin Reed, a trans activist and journalist who testified in favor of the legislation in Colorado, spoke about how the law can help trans people and families in states such as Texas, Florida, and Tennessee where they are being targeted.
My testimony today in favor of SB188 in Colorado, which makes it a “safe state” for people fleeing anti-trans legislation and getting their care out of state.
Some antis asked “why this was needed.”
I highlighted the unique aspects in which this care is targeted.
Pass SB188! pic.twitter.com/VOQQ3DjpXY
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) March 28, 2023
“One of the most common questions that I am asked by families, almost daily, is the question, ‘Am I safe? Where can I go? Is it time to leave?’ Colorado is often one of the places I point these families to.”
In an email, Meredith Gleitz, Policy Manager at One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, called the measure “critical” for transgender people to be able to fairly access what is often lifesaving health care.
“Research shows that gender-affirming care improves mental health and overall well-being for transgender people, and is recognized and endorsed by 29 leading medical organizations. In spite of its medical necessity and health benefits, access to gender-affirming care is being politically targeted, to the detriment of providers and patients – and attacks are intensifying,” she said.
“Colorado needs shield legislation to protect patients and providers from interstate political attacks and to prevent further obstacles to accessing critical health care.”
While Colorado’s trans community celebrates the state’s continued progress in the right direction, the community in Oregon is also praising HB2002, which seeks to create a universal health care system for all residents of the state. The law would establish a new system called “Oregon Health Care Program” and would require health care plans to cover transition-related care including hormone therapy and gender affirming surgeries.
The bill was shaped after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last June. In response, House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, formed a legislative workgroup last summer that worked for several months to develop HB2002.
“The right to access an abortion does not mean that abortion is accessible,” Rayfield said.
I’m proud that Oregon leads the nation in protecting reproductive health. But these protections don’t exist if not everyone has access. HB2002 takes important steps towards closing this gap. I was proud to testify in support of HB2002 once again. #orpol https://t.co/aT0eM53sPp
— Dan Rayfield (@DanRayfield) March 21, 2023
Last week transgender and gender nonconforming Oregon residents as well as allies gave testimonies during a hearing on the measure, including Dr. Christina Milano, a doctor who provides transgender care at Oregon Health & Science University.
“I hear a panic that we are opening up the gates, allowing young patients to come in and cajoling them and pressuring them to start pubertal suppression and pursue surgical procedures,” she said, noting that her team always works with a team of providers that includes endocrinologists and psychologists.
“Our teams work with exquisite caution and thoughtfulness.”
The state’s Medicaid program, known as The Oregon Health Plan, as well as private insurance companies have all been required to provide coverage for medical care for transgender Oregonians since 2015. This law would expand the list of covered treatments.
Seth Johnstone, the Transgender Justice Program Manager at Basic Rights Oregon, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ individuals in the state, says the bill will help ensure trans and gender-expansive Oregon residents have access to life saving treatment and gender affirming care.
“This bill will advance the Oregon value that everyone should be free to be who they are, and that everyone should have affordable access to medical care. As over 300 anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year, we’re proud to see Oregon lawmakers not only protecting existing rights, but also working to expand access for our community,” he said.
“This landmark legislation will protect, strengthen, and expand equitable access to all forms of reproductive and gender-affirming care, and is based on recommendations developed by the Reproductive Health and Access to Care Work Group in December 2022.”
Johnstone states that Oregon has demonstrated clear values regarding healthcare, particularly with regards to reproductive and transgender-related care, and the recommendations made by Rep. Rayfield’s work group was “an affirmation and continuation of those values.”
“We believe every person in Oregon deserves access to high quality healthcare, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make.”
Similarly, Illinois and California have also demonstrated their commitment to protections for the trans community.
In January, Illinois, led by out State Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago, passed a bill to protect access to both reproductive healthcare and transgender healthcare. The bill, signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker, expands healthcare access and options in the state and protects healthcare providers and patients who travel to Illinois to access essential care now banned in their home states.
“This comprehensive legislation is proof that Illinois does not and will not stand by as hard-fought freedoms of the people of this state are taken away,” Cassidy stated.
“It is further proof that protecting reproductive rights and gender affirming healthcare is broadly supported, contrary to Republican-led efforts to strip away the protections we all rely on. By partnering with community stakeholders, organizations, and our government colleagues, we are setting the example for other states and their reproductive and healthcare policy in a post-Roe world.”
New York’s Assembly Bill 709, sponsored by Democrat assembly member Nily Rozicis, is a proposed measure that seeks to improve the treatment of incarcerated individuals based on their gender. If passed, the law would require that individuals in state and local prisons who identify as a gender different from their assigned sex at birth be addressed and provided with items like clothes and toiletries that match their gender. The bill would also establish a presumption that these individuals should be placed in correctional facilities with others who share their self-attested gender identity, unless they choose otherwise. Overall, the law seeks to ensure that incarcerated individuals are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their gender.
Elsewhere, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed SB04 in the state which modifies a previous law from 1976 known as the The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, expanding protections to LGBTQ Michigan residents.
“No resident in Michigan should feel they have to hide their identity to ensure job security or successfully purchase a new home. This legislation protects individuals from harmful discrimination that has no place in our community,” said Michigan Senator Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp) in a release. “I’m proud to be a part of a diverse body of legislators that understand discrimination based on sexual orientation, identity, or expression is an issue that needs to be prioritized and swiftly addressed.”
As states continue to shape legislation to protect the trans and gender nonconforming community, Minnesota is gearing up to add further protections for those living with HIV with SF3062, a bill that will appropriate ten million dollars set aside from the government’s general funds to help support community-based HIV/AIDS support services.
The funds will be given to the commissioner of human resources who will then distribute it as grants to organizations that provide support services to people living with HIV or AIDS. The funding will be made available in the fiscal year 2024 and 2025.
The bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services committee.
With more than 480 anti-trans bills sweeping across the country, it’s crucial to remain vigilant about pro-trans legislation and ongoing efforts towards trans equality. While the fight for trans rights continues, it’s important to acknowledge states that are actively working to make a safe and inclusive home for trans and gender nonconforming people.