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Ban on gender-affirming care for minors passes Utah House, heads back to Senate

2023 Utah Legislature, trans rights rally, Utah State Capitol, Jan. 24, 2023
Saige Miller
A rally for transgender rights on the front steps of the Utah State Capitol, Jan. 24, 2023. The gathering was in response to several bills under debate by the Legislature, including SB16, which would ban gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy for minors.

Update; Jan. 27, 2023, @ 11:40 a.m.: The Utah Senate has passed the version of SB16 that the House sent back to them by a vote of 20-8. GOP Sens. Weiler and Hinkins joined Democrats in opposition. The bill now heads to the governor. Our original story continues below.

The Utah House of Representatives has voted to ban gender-affirming procedures for transgender minors. SB16 bans surgeries like breast removal or enhancement, as well as hormone therapy.

A version of the bill was passed by a 58-14 vote. Rep. Quinn Kotter, R-West Valley City, was the lone Republican to join all Democrats in opposition.

Speaking in support of the bill, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, said this issue has been tough to grapple with.

“There's good arguments on both sides, and over the years I've found myself going back and forth,” he said. “I think it's important that we take time, we push pause on this issue until we can really study the data, understand what [these procedures are] doing to our kids, understand the ways we can help them best and give them options and the help that they need, and then come forward with a proper way forward.”

Emotions were high on both sides of the issue.

“I don't think it is ever fair to position one group of children above another in terms of their well-being,” said Rep. Sahara Hayes, D-Millcreek, through tears. “I think we focus on the transgender part and not the fact that these are our nieces and nephews. These are the kids next door. This is your best friend's teenager. And not being able to get the health care they need is in and of itself a permanent and limiting decision. There are lifelong impacts.”

What the House voted on was a different version of the bill that was passed by the Senate last week. It removed a sunset date for the ban and included an immediate effective date.

LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah said that change is concerning.

New language popped up very suddenly and was adopted and then pushed through,” said the group’s Policy Director Marina Lowe. “And so the fourth sub, which is what we're on now, is, I think, worse than the third or second sub … And it, you know, makes clear that this is a ban on trans kids being able to get care in the future.”

Lowe said they will “wait and see” where the bill ultimately ends up.

I think the writing on the wall is very clear,” she said. “If there is a ban, I'm sure somebody will litigate.”

Since there were changes in the House, the Senate will have to take up the amended version for further discussion and another vote.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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