Tennessee Approves Bill Involving Gender-Transition Care

Adults in Tennessee could soon be punished if they help a minor child receive gender-affirming care without receiving parental consent.

On Thursday, the Statehouse in Tennessee, which is controlled by the GOP, gave its final approval on the new legislation. The bill, which is the first of its kind in the country, will now be sent to the desk of Governor Bill Lee for his signature.

This new bill includes language that mirrors almost exactly that of an anti-abortion trafficking proposal that Republican lawmakers in Tennessee put forth earlier this week. In that bill, supporters are hoping to prevent adults from helping a minor obtain an abortion without first receiving permission from their guardians or parents.

Lee, who is a Republican, hasn’t yet commented publicly on whether he supports either of those bills. However, supporters of the bill have said they’re confident the governor will sign them into law.

Lee has never issued a veto as governor. Plus, he has already approved sweeping bans on gender-affirming care for children and abortion in the past.

The supermajority that Republicans hold in the Tennessee Statehouse have said these new bills are necessary to protect the rights of parents. At the same time, critics have warned that there are dangers to such a broad application of rules like this.

Some potential violations of the bills might include an adult discussing with a minor a website that they may be able to find information on gender-affirming care or abortions. It also would include helping a minor travel to a state outside of Tennessee that has less strict restrictions on these kinds of services.

The original version of the bill would have levied criminal penalties on those who were found in violation. However, supporters of the bill agreed to reduce that to only civil penalties.

Earlier this week, the sponsor of the bill, Republican state Representative Bryan Richey, commented:

“This is a parent’s rights bill, nothing more, nothing less. At the end of the day, parents should have final say what medical procedures their children are receiving, and nobody else.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Tennessee has enacted more laws that are considered anti-LGBTQ+ than any other state in the last nine years. The organization has identified more than 20 different bills that fit this description that have made their way out of the state Legislature in just the last few months.

One such bill is before Lee now. It bans the state from spending money on either sex reassignment or hormone therapy procedures for prisoners. It doesn’t apply to any inmate in the state who is already receiving hormone therapy, though.

In addition, the bill would require all employees of public school districts in Tennessee to “out” any transgender student to their parents.

Lee also signed a bill into law earlier this month that allows foster children who identify as LGBTQ+ to be placed with a family that holds anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.

In a statement issued this week, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior director of legal policy, Cathryn Oakley, said:

“Tennessee lawmakers are on the verge of enacting more than twice as many anti-LGBTQ+ laws as any other state, a staggering assault on their own constituents.”