BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Starting next year, anyone in Idaho who provides gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth could be a convicted felon after the state’s Republican governor signed legislation banning the treatment late Tuesday.
At least one organization has already vowed to sue over the new law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho announced Wednesday that it is seeking potential plaintiffs in the lawsuit and asked anyone affected by the legislation to contact it.
Idaho is one of at least 13 states to pass legislation limiting or banning gender-affirming care for minors, and nearly two dozen others are considering similar bills. Under new Idaho law, doctors face up to 10 years in prison if they provide hormones, puberty blockers or other gender-affirming care to persons under the age of 18.
Opponents of the legislation say it is likely to increase teen suicide rates, but supporters say the bill is needed to “protect children” from medical or surgical treatment for gender dysphoria.
Still, supporters acknowledge there is no indication that gender-affirming surgeries are being performed on transgender youth in Idaho.
“By signing this bill, I recognize that our society plays a role in protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that could irreversibly damage their healthy bodies,” Gov. Brad Little wrote in his signing statement. “However, as policymakers, we must be very careful when we consider allowing government to interfere with loving parents and their decisions about what is best for their children.”
Gender care for youth is supported by every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association.
Medical professionals define gender dysphoria as severe psychological distress experienced by those whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Add the Words Idaho, an organization that advocates for equal rights and treatment for LGBTQ+ people, said the law violates parents’ rights and sends a signal to all medical professionals that they are not welcome in the state. Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln, the organisation’s executive director, said the group was receiving “frantic” calls from desperate families.
“We are watching parental rights being stripped away in the name of stigmatizing and hurting our most vulnerable youth,” Gaona-Lincoln said. “The fear in the voices of parents is real as they don’t know what to say to their teenagers or how to give them hope while their elected representatives are actively trying to legislate them away.”
Gender-affirming care for youth under the age of 18 will be allowed for “medically verifiable disorders,” including children who were born intersex, with both male and female physical traits.
ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Leo Morales said the law is discriminatory.
“For lawmakers to interfere in decisions that should be made by families and their health care providers is clear government overreach and is unacceptable,” Morales said in a statement.
Little spokeswoman Madison Hardy said the governor’s office had received nearly 20,000 calls and emails from people who supported the legislation by Tuesday evening, as well as more than 11,500 from people urging him to veto the bill.
The bill was one of several anti-LGBTQ bills introduced during the Idaho legislative session.
Last week, the governor signed a bill limiting transgender children’s school bathroom access, barring them from using locker rooms, changing rooms or bathrooms that match their gender. This bill requires school facilities accessible to more than one person at a time to be designated as male-only or female-only. A person who encounters a person of the opposite sex in the bathroom can sue the school district for $5,000 per case.
Little has yet to sign a bill that would allow parents to sue libraries and public schools for $2,500 if something deemed “harmful to minors” is made available to their child. The definition of “harmful to minors” includes any depiction of an act of homosexuality, as well as any “intimate sexual acts.” The governor has until Thursday afternoon to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
Other bills died in the legislature. One would prohibit schools from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation before fifth grade. Another could be interpreted as requiring schools to inform a student’s parents if the student discloses a change in sexual orientation or gender identity.