by Annelise Hanshaw, Missouri Independent
A bill that would stop physicians from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors who have not already begun treatment passed Missouri’s Senate Thursday in a party-line vote.
The legislation originally sought to ban all gender-affirming care, but after negotiations was amended to allow transgender youth to continue their treatment if they started before Aug. 28, when the bill goes into effect. The bill also has a four-year sunset for the ban against puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, though surgeries would be off the table indefinitely under the legislation.
It now heads to the House, where Republicans have listed its passage as a priority.
“I wish we could have done more,” Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said Thursday.
Republicans hold a 24-10 majority in the Senate.
Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, praised the compromise.
“The position that we came to with the folks being grandfathered in that have started the process is a good one,” he told reporters. “Because it does allow for and make sure that we’re not pulling the rug out from under these kids who have started the process.”
“We’re doing a great deal of basically everything we wanted to have done,” he continued. “From my perspective, that’s a win.”
“It’s been said that our party is going to have a black mark,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Mike Moon of Ash Grove. “I beg to differ. I believe that our party is protecting the most innocent.”
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said the four-year expiration on the medication ban was a “big step for us.” He knew transgender medicine was a top priority of the Republican caucus, he said, and that all options were on the table to force a vote over Democratic resistance
“They will do whatever it is,” he said, “ including using the nuclear option to blow the Senate up.”
The “nuclear option” is a motion to proceed to the previous question, which cuts off debate and forces a vote to end a filibuster.
Razer said he put a lot of pressure on himself to stand up for the rights of transgender children.
“I wish I could have stood on that floor until (Republicans) gave up,” he said.”But the truth is they were going to force me to sit and we would have gotten a much worse bill.”
“We got to a place where there was just no back and forth,” Rizzo told reporters of the negotiations.
On the Senate floor, Razer said past efforts by Republicans to target gay people led more Americans to understanding.
“We will get past this, and tomorrow will be a better day,” Razer said. “And they don’t realize that with all these cameras and reporters here, every Missourian is thinking about who are transgender people… That leads to acceptance.”
“We saw that with people like me in the ‘70s and the ‘80s. As people began to understand who gay and lesbian people were, what our struggles were, what our life was like, they began to accept and to embrace,” he continued. “The same is going to happen one day [for transgender people].”
The LGBTQ community, he said, “will win in the end.”
But some of the chamber’s Republicans said they believed the bill would stand the test of time.
Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, said the legislation has caused “outcry from the victims of these therapies themselves.”
Multiple transgender children and their parents have testified in committee meetings this year, arguing that gender-affirming care is beneficial.
“There are few things more important than protecting those that cannot protect themselves,” Eigel said Thursday. “Today is a great day in the Missouri Senate because we lived up to our call to be the defenders of the defenseless.”
Rowden said he believed Missouri voters were in favor of his party’s decision.
“You ask every person in Missouri if they think that their child should take hormones, change their sex before they’re able to do a lot of other things, things that we deem adults to be capable of doing, I’d say about 75 percent in this state are going to agree with a Republican position,” he said.
If the House makes any changes to the bill, it will return to the Senate for deliberation.
Unimpressed with the compromise, former Republican state Sen. Bob Onder has begun calling for the House to tighten the restrictions on puberty blockers and hormone treatment.
But Rowden said a second round of debate in the Senate would likely mean the bill wouldn’t make it to the governor’s desk.
“I do think if it comes back,” he said, “it has a pretty hard chance of getting done.”