Republican leaders in the Tennessee General Assembly filed a bill Wednesday in an effort to ban gender-affirming treatment for minors.
House/Senate Bill 1, introduced by House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), fulfills a promise the duo made at a Daily Wire-sponsored rally in late October.
If passed, the bill would prohibit a health care provider from performing or offering to perform a medical procedure on minors for the purpose of transitioning or treating gender dysphoria. In a statement, Lamberth called the health services “profoundly unethical and morally wrong.”
Under the bill, a minor or parent of a minor can sue a health care provider for damages. In addition, a child can bring civil action against a parent if the parent consented to a surgery or other gender-affirming treatment on their behalf.
The bill starts out with more than three pages of findings, which align closely with conservative media figure Matt Walsh’s accusations against the Vanderbilt Pediatric Transgender Clinic in September.
The bill claims these medical procedures are being administered to minors with “rapidly increasing frequency.” Vanderbilt explained that the clinic performs around five procedures per year, and none are genital surgeries. However, the clinic did opt to pause the treatments, citing the review of new World Professional Association for Transgender Health guidelines.
The bill also calls hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries harmful to a minor as a treatment to gender dysphoria.
“These procedures can lead to the minor becoming irreversibly sterile, having increased risk of disease and illness, or suffering from adverse and sometimes fatal psychological consequences,” it reads.
If the bill should become law, it requires the state attorney general to establish a process for reporting violations. Violating the law would be a civil offense, and the courts could impose up to a $25,000 penalty on health care providers for “knowingly violating the law” within 20 years of the violation.
Of note, the bill dictates that jurisdiction for the civil actions be brought to Williamson County or the circuit court of the county where the violation occurred, rather than defaulting to Davidson County.
“This Republican obsession with children’s genitalia is unhealthy,” Senate Democratic Caucus spokesperson Brandon Puttbrese said. “Instead of fixing real problems like our broken adoption system, kids dying in DCS custody or kids sleeping on state office floors, the supermajority is going to force us all to suffer more culture war politics that only further marginalizes a few already vulnerable kids.”
Tennessee Equality Project education manager Jace Wilder echoed concerns about child protective services.
“We are watching gruesome history repeat itself,” Wilder said. “A group of people who are marginalized being told they are being saved by a group of people who have spent years calling us anything but their constituents and seeing us as less than human. We are not the monsters under your bed. We are Tennesseans and deserve to have the same rights to access health care and self-expression as our neighbors.”
Henry Seaton, ACLU of Tennessee transgender justice advocate, added:
"Denying health care to transgender youth can be life-threatening. Research shows it contributes to depression, isolation, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. However, transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a significant decrease in suicidal thoughts and attempts, and significant increases in self-esteem.”
VUMC declined to comment on House/Senate Bill 1.
The 113th Tennessee General Assembly is scheduled to convene on Jan. 10, and Johnson has already filed other bills, including one that would criminalize "entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest" that "could be" seen by a minor.