Thursday, February 22, 2024

House Bill 71, also known as the Vulnerable Child Protective Act, was passed by Idaho’s Republican-controlled Legislature in February. The bill bans gender transition surgeries, puberty blockers, and hormone therapy for those under 18 with gender dysphoria. It also makes it a felony for medical professionals to provide the care, with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Governor Brad Little, who is also a Republican, signed the bill into law in April, and the ban was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. Governor Little stated that the ban sought to “protect children.” However, major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have expressed support for gender transition care, stating that bans pose serious mental health risks to young people.

In May, two Idaho families, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations, filed a lawsuit to block the ban from taking effect. They claimed that it was unconstitutional and harmful to the well-being of transgender minors. The lawsuit stated that the law strips families of the ability to access necessary care when all parties involved agree that gender-affirming medical care is medically necessary. A 16-year-old transgender girl, referred to as Jane Doe in the case, stated that her medical care had been an important part of her journey to live her life as her true self.

On Dec. 26, Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a preliminary injunction, stating that the plaintiffs had “shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claims.”

Idaho’s legislation is part of a national wave of laws aiming to restrict the rights of transgender minors. At least 20 states, all with Republican-controlled legislatures, have passed bans or restrictions on gender transition care for young people this year. Many of these laws have faced court challenges, creating uncertainty for transgender minors and their families. In Idaho, the Vulnerable Child Protective Act is not the only law restricting the rights of transgender youth that is currently the subject of legal battles. The state also passed a separate bill affecting transgender minors, known as Senate Bill 1100. This law prohibited transgender students from using public bathrooms that did not align with their gender assigned at birth and allowed legal action against schools if a transgender student was not abiding by the rule. A temporary restraining order was issued, pausing the enforcement of the law until the court rules on whether to grant a preliminary injunction.

Amid the legal battles, transgender minors in Idaho will still be able to receive gender transition care. The challenge to the constitutionality of the state ban continues to move through the legal system.

Adeel Hassancontributed reporting.

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