Georgia Senate passes bill to limit treatment for transgender youth

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The Georgia Senate on Monday passed a bill that would prohibit medical professionals from giving transgender children certain hormones or surgical treatment that assists them in aligning with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 140 passed on a 32-22 party-line vote, with Republicans supporting the measure.

SB 140 would not ban medication that slows or stops puberty, but it would ban health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen or testosterone to transgender minors. Doctors also would not be allowed to perform surgeries on children.

State Sen. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican who sponsored the bill, said issues stemming from gender dysphoria, the medical diagnosis for many transgender people, will “resolve themselves” as children become young adults.

“This is simply saying this is a pause and we are asking children to be 18 years or older before they make a decision that will alter their lives forever,” he said.

Transgender advocates say it is rare for doctors to perform nonreversible surgeries on minors.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

State Sen. Sally Harrell, an Atlanta Democrat and opponent of the bill who has a transgender son, talked about the evolution of her relationship with her child who began the journey of gender transition when he was about 15. He is now 21.

“If this bill passes, and it probably will, some desperate kids are going to feel more desperate,” Harrell said before the vote. “Some parents are going to be angry. And I’ll be honest, some parents are going to secretly breathe a sigh of relief because it will slow things down.

“Going forward, let’s all bring some humility to this issue. Let’s admit what we do and what we don’t know. And when we don’t, let’s ask someone who does before we take action.”

The bill 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 also allowances for physicians to treat children for nongender-related reasons, such as a sexual development disorder or an injury or infection.

It would also allow for minors to continue to receive hormone treatments if they began before July 1, when the bill, if signed into law, would take effect.

Senate Republicans had also considered Senate Bill 141, a similar measure sponsored by Buford Republican state Sen. Clint Dixon that would have restricted all medicinal and surgical treatment of minors if it is to assist them in aligning with their gender identity. It also would have created a path for children or their families to sue doctors who provided transgender health care. It did not get a committee vote.

Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican, said he worked with Summers and advocates to craft a bill that is “well balanced and well thought out.”

“We’ve adjusted and refined this bill,” he said. “I think that we’ve threaded the needle and made a good bill.”

Cole Muzio, who runs the conservative Norcross-based Frontline Policy Action and worked with Dixon on SB 141, said he was disappointed senators passed the less restrictive bill.

“It creates a false ‘medical necessity’ exception, allows for dangerous puberty blockers and bans mutilated children from suing the doctor who mutilated them,” he said. “We now look to the House to take a strong stand.”

State Sen Kim Jackson, a Pine Lake Democrat who is the chamber’s first openly LGBTQ member, cited studies that found high rates of transgender children have considered suicide and many have attempted to kill themselves.

“If this bill passes, if it becomes a law, we know that this bill actually may be deadly,” Jackson said. “I know there’s been some concerns about children having procedures that may be irreversible, but you know what the ultimate most irreversible thing is? Suicide.”

SB 140 now goes to the House for its consideration.