Missouri Senate approves transgender health restrictions, sports ban

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate introduced two bills to ban sex-reassignment health treatments for minors and limit their competition in sports, a Republican victory Tuesday after heavy pressure from protesters to act.

The Senate vote came after an all-night session of closed-door negotiations and only after Republican lawmakers agreed not to ban transitions already underway and let the measures expire in 2027.

“What we have is a good start,” said Republican Sen. Mike Moon, who sponsored the health care ban. “The result is that children will be protected and I hope that will continue.”

The measures reflect a national Republican-led push to limit transgender health care, drag shows, bathroom access and how LGBTQ topics are discussed in schools.

On Monday, Wyoming became the 19th state to ban transgender athletes from playing on women’s or girls’ sports teams after the Republican governor chose not to veto the legislation.

Last week, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a Kansas bill to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, setting off a hotly contested battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature to overturn it. Georgia lawmakers passed a ban on Tuesday.

At least seven states have already enacted restrictions or bans on such care: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and South Dakota. Federal judges have blocked the laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and more than 20 states are considering bills this year to limit or ban the care.

READ MORE: What medical treatment do transgender youth receive?

Lawmakers in Iowa and Arkansas last week also passed bills to ban transgender people in public schools from using restrooms that match their gender identity.

Missouri’s GOP senators compromised by agreeing to allow minors already on hormone treatment or puberty-blocking drugs to continue doing so, applying that ban only to those who have not yet started do it.

Health care providers who perform sex-reassignment surgery or otherwise prescribe “cross-hormone or puberty-blocking drugs” to minors could have their medical licenses revoked and face potential lawsuits from their patients until they reach 36 years of age. Republicans initially proposed a 30-year window for lawsuits.

Although they are set to expire in four years, the restrictions on transgender athletes competing are more restrictive than Republican Sen. Holly Roeder’s original plan.

She originally proposed restrictions only for K-12 students in public schools. The Senate-approved version also applies to private K-12 schools and public and private universities, a broad expansion that could mean some adults will be affected as well.

Schools that violate the rule will lose all state funding.

Moon said the expiration date was needed to win initial approval. Democrats agreed to stop the delay before voting against the measures. The bills still need a final vote in the Senate to move to the House, where Republican Speaker Dean Plocher said he plans to follow suit in the Senate. Similar bills passed House committees earlier this year.

The Senate vote came a day after hundreds of activists gathered at the Missouri Capitol to urge lawmakers to approve the legislation.

Katie Erker-Lynch, executive director of the LGBTQ rights group PROMO, encouraged opponents of the bills to stay away from the rally, but vowed to “fight every step” of the measures.

During a Senate debate on Monday, Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur described the treatment ban as “an example of pretty serious government overreach.”

“You may have an opinion about it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to impose your opinion or regulate someone else’s children,” she said.

Also Monday, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced an emergency ordinance limiting access to gender-affirming treatment for minors.

The Republican attorney general said his administrative rule would require an 18-month waiting period, 15-hour therapy sessions and treatment for any mental illness before Missouri doctors can provide gender-affirming treatment to children under 18.

Once this rule goes into effect, it can last no more than 180 days, so it will essentially serve as a bridge to any law passed by the Legislature that will take effect on August 28.

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