Trans minors are protected from their parents under Washington law

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Minors seeking gender-affirming care in Washington will be protected from intervention by estranged parents under a measure signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday.

The new law is part of a wave of legislation this year in Democratic-run states intended to provide sanctuary amid a conservative movement in which lawmakers in other states have attacked transgender rights and restricted or banned gender-affirming care for minors.

Current Washington law generally requires licensed shelters and homestays to notify parents within 72 hours of a minor entering their care. Under the new law, facilities can instead contact the State Ministry for Children, Youth and Family, which could then try to reunite the family where possible. Young people are also allowed to stay with host families – private, voluntary accommodations where young people are placed temporarily without parental permission.

More than half a dozen states, from New Jersey to Vermont to Colorado, have passed or are considering passing similar bills or executive orders related to health care, civil rights, and other legal protections for transgender people. In March, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law the first state law outlawing discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Oregon lawmakers are expected to pass legislation that would further expand insurance coverage for gender-affirming care to include things like facial hair removal and Adam’s apple reduction surgery, procedures currently considered cosmetic by insurers but critical to mental health women’s health in transition.

Shield Conservation Measures were enacted this year in Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico. California, Massachusetts and Connecticut passed their own measures over the past year, largely preventing authorities from honoring subpoenas, warrants or extradition requests from states that have banned gender-affirming treatments.

Protections in blue states are being enshrined in law as Republican-led states take steps to ban access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors, which typically includes puberty blockers or other hormone treatments for people under 18. Restrictions went into effect in eight states this year — including conservative Utah and South Dakota — and are set to roll out in at least nine more states by next year.

Those opposed to gender-affirming care raise concerns about the long-term effects of treatments on teenagers, argue that research is limited, and particularly focus on irreversible procedures such as genital surgery or mastectomies.

However, these surgeries are rarely performed on minors. Doctors usually guide children to therapy or voice coaching well in advance of any medical procedure. Puberty blockers, antiandrogens that block the effects of testosterone, and hormone treatments are far more common than surgery. They have been available in the US for more than a decade and are standard treatments endorsed by major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association.

In Washington, local Republican lawmakers have spent weeks railing against legislation signed Tuesday. Senate GOP leader John Braun said in March that it “would drive a wedge between vulnerable children and their parents.” Online, some users have twisted the content of the measure to suggest that the state will be ripping children from their homes.

But those claims misrepresented legislation, which experts and lawmakers who support the law say should house alienated young people. The bill does not address custody and would not result in the state taking children away from their homes and parents.

Washington legislation requires the State Department of Children, Youth and Families to make a “good faith attempt” to notify parents after they have been contacted by shelters or guest homes and to provide services aimed at “resolving the conflict and to achieve family reunification,” the law says. Family reunification efforts would be made where possible, according to Washington State Senator Marko Liias, a Democrat who was the main sponsor of the bill.

“When a young person is completely alienated from their parents, not in a meaningful relationship, we need someone to care for that child,” Inslee said at a news conference last month.

Ed Komenda, The Associated Press


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