Utah's new anti-trans law is "brutally unfair" and will face a legal challenge, advocate says
"Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said about transgender kids in 2022. On Saturday, he signed a bill into law that targets trans kids.
The first new anti-transgender law of 2023 was signed into law by a governor who highlighted “compassion” in vetoing anti-transgender legislation just last year — a sign of the growing dangers for transgender people, and LGBTQ people more broadly, on the legislative front in the new year.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, signed S.B. 16 into law on Saturday, just a day after final passage by the Republican legislature. The law bans most trans minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care in the state.
A leading LGBTQ advocate said on Sunday evening, however, that a lawsuit is coming soon to fight the bill.
“We are preparing a challenge,” Shannon Minter, the legal director of NCLR, told Law Dork. Minter said that the ACLU of Utah and NCLR will be filing the lawsuit “as soon as we can.”
Ten short months ago, when lawmakers in Utah passed anti-transgender legislation to ban transgender girls from primary school sports, Cox vetoed that bill. In his veto message, the Republican governor said, in one notable part, “I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”
On Saturday, Cox signed S.B. 16 into law, anti-trans legislation that goes much further than the bill he vetoed in 2022.
This, from a governor whose website even now opens with aspirational language. “Let’s do the big things,” the site states. “Let’s do the things that matter.”
S.B. 16 was discussed at Law Dork a few days ago. The final version of the bill signed into law bans surgical procedures for all transgender minors and creates a “moratorium” even on hormone therapy treatment for minors who were not already “diagnosed with gender dysphoria before the effective date of this bill.”
Minter highlighted the danger that he sees in the law in a discussion on Sunday.
“It is brutally unfair to the families and children affected,” he said. “This is a recognized medical condition with a standard of care. There is no alternative treatment. The law has banned the only safe and effective treatment for many children with gender dysphoria.”
If only Spencer Cox of 2022 could have spoken to Spencer Cox of today. As the old Cox said:
Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly.
In attempting to justify this weekend’s action, here is what today’s Cox had to say:
Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation. While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Sen. Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue. More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.
We will continue to push the Legislature for additional resources to organizations that work to help this important Utah community. While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures.
This is, at least in part, The New York Times effect. This is the sort of statement made more acceptable by — and even sounds like — some of the Times’ coverage of trans youth, which is largely not coverage of trans youth but rather coverage of a handful of people who question medically-accepted practices for gender-affirming health care. Cox’s statement is not an accurate discussion of the scientific or medical view, but it is the sort of language that the Times’ coverage (and coverage from The Atlantic and others seen as part of “the left”) enables.
Under a provision in the bill, S.B. 16 took effect immediately upon Cox signing it.
“The law is a blanket ban of medical care for a serious medical condition. It leaves parents with no way to obtain essential medical care for their children,” Minter said. “If the care is not safe and effective, why allow it to continue for existing [diagnosed] children? And if it is safe and effective, why ban it going forward? What is the medical difference between a child diagnosed today and one diagnosed yesterday?”
Minter also questioned the timing of the legislation.
“It is unclear why the legislature chose to ram through a bill on such an important topic with literally no time for significant discussion or debate,” he said. “That is almost as shocking and irrational as the bill itself.”
As Erin Reed highlighted in her newsletter’s coverage of this bill becoming law, this particular type of legislation has faced significant scrutiny from courts and no ban this broad is in effect currently.
The ACLU of Utah hinted at the coming litigation on Saturday, stating on Twitter after Cox signed the bill that the fight “does not end today.”
Law Dork with Chris Geidner is independent, reader-supported legal and political journalism that seeks to hold government and other public officials accountable. Support this reporting by becoming a free or paid subscriber today.
ENTER MISSISSIPPI: That, however, is not all tonight. There is more anti-trans litigation on the move that I wanted to draw attention to before the legislative week starts.
H.B. 1125, another bill banning gender-affirming medical care for minors, passed the Mississippi House earlier this month.
On Friday, Jan. 27, the bill was referred to a committee in the Senate and an advocate opposed to the bill told Law Dork that it appeared to be moving quickly through the legislature.
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The post was updated to add this paragraph at 9:30 p.m.
What an execrable, hateful piece of legislation.
Sure because the courts are so fair to transgender people I’m sure the case will be assigned to a nice Trump appointed judge , if we wait for courts we are going to lose all our rights as I said in my Article it’s time we use republican tactics against them