Georgia governor signs bill limiting treatment to transgender minors

Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed a bill into law that bans health care providers from providing certain hormones or surgical treatment to children to align with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 140 passed the Legislature on a party-line vote, with Republicans supporting it.

“As Georgians, parents and elected leaders, it is our highest responsibility to safeguard the bright, promising futures of our kids — and SB 140 takes an important step in fulfilling that mission,” Kemp said in a statement.

The bill will take effect July 1.

Supporters of SB 140 say it protects children from taking steps toward gender transition that are permanent. Opponents say the law goes against published medical “standards of care” and will end up hurting transgender children, who commit suicide at a higher rate than their nontransgender peers.

Opponents of Senate Bill 140 watch discussion of the legislation Tuesday on a TV screen in the Capitol before it won final approval in the Georgia Senate. Once it takes effect July 1, SB 140 will prevent medical professionals from giving transgender children certain hormones or surgical treatment.  (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Jeff Graham, executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Georgia Equality, said he was heartbroken to learn that Kemp signed the bill.

“This legislation is a clear attack on the rights of transgender children, their parents and the medical community in Georgia as a whole,” Graham said. “We know that Georgia is better than this and that the majority of Georgians stand with us on the right side of history.”

SB 140 will ban health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen and testosterone to transgender minors. Doctors also will not be allowed to perform surgeries on children seeking to align with their gender identity.

Medical professionals will still allowed to prescribe a hormone treatment that aims to delay puberty or stop it from progressing under the law. Children who don’t identify with their biological sex at a young age are often prescribed the puberty blockers.

SB 140 includes an exception for the treatment of intersex children — those who are not born with the genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs of only one gender. There are allowances for physicians to treat children for nongender-related reasons, such as a sexual development disorder or an injury or infection.

SB 140 will also allow minors to continue receiving hormone treatments if they begin before July 1.

Kemp skipped the bill signing ceremony he sometimes holds for high-profile bills, instead announcing on Twitter that he signed the legislation.

State Sen. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican who sponsored the measure, said he didn’t know Kemp would sign SB 140 so quickly but that he was “tickled” to learn it had been signed.

“I think he signed it because he realized the importance of the bill,” Summers said. “None of us could support a bill that was zero-tolerance like some of the other states put out. That bill was written simply to protect children, and I’m sorry it got morphed into something that it wasn’t.”

Hours after the Senate voted Tuesday to give SB 140 final approval, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia announced its intent to sue the state if Kemp signed the bill. It affirmed its intent Thursday.

“We will use every legal means at our disposal to block this bill from hurting children and families,” ACLU of Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young said after Kemp signed SB 140. “It’s disturbing how quickly the governor acts to sign bills that take away people’s rights.”

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