Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed Senate Bill 16 on Saturday, just one day after the Utah Legislature passed the controversial measure that bans gender-transitioning surgical procedures and places a moratorium on hormonal treatment for minors.
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After advancing out of the Senate Health and Human Services Standing Committee (HHSSC) on Jan. 18th, it took legislators 10 days to move the bill through both chambers and onto the governor’s desk. Utah joins Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, and Tennessee as states that have enacted laws restricting youth access to gender-transition care.
Cox, who has been a strong proponent of youth mental health since taking office, issued the following statement after signing SB 16 into law.
“Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation,” Cox said. “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.”
The passage comes despite opposition from rights groups and the American Medical Association to governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine, which they argue is detrimental to the health of transgender and gender-diverse children and adults. In a letter to Cox on Friday, ACLU Utah Legal Director John Mejia called for a veto of the bill.
“SB 16 effectively bans medical treatment for individuals under 18 years of age diagnosed with gender dysphoria after the law’s effective date, including puberty suppression or gender-affirming hormone therapy,” the letter read.
“It also allows medical malpractice suits based on retroactively withdrawn consent. This bill bans access to life-saving medical care. By cutting off medical treatment supported by every major medical association in the United States, the bill compromises the health and well-being of adolescents with gender dysphoria. It ties the hands of doctors and parents by restricting access to the only evidence-based treatment available for this serious medical condition and impedes their ability to fulfill their professional obligations.”
ACLU Utah says the law violates the equal protection rights of transgender youth and discriminates on the basis of transgender status. Additionally, it said the bill infringes upon the substantive due process rights of parents to follow medical guidelines for the treatment of their children.
“This is a devastating and dangerous violation of the rights and privacy of transgender Utahns, their families, and their medical providers,” said Chase Strangio, ACLU deputy director for transgender justice on Sunday. “Claims of protecting our most vulnerable with these laws ring hollow when lawmakers have trans children’s greatest protectors—their parents, providers, and the youth themselves—pleading in front of them not to cut them off from their care. I want transgender youth in Utah to know this fight is not over, and we won’t stop defending your autonomy and freedom until each and every one of you can access the care you need.”
ACLU Utah, which has an ongoing case against the ban on transgender participation in girls’ sports, says it is planning to challenge the new law in the courts.