Georgia Republicans target transgender issues over other culture wars

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Georgia Republicans are putting their energy behind a fresh debate on transgender policies — and leaving other attention-grabbing socially conservative issues behind for now.

After emotional debate, the state Senate passed a measure Monday that would ban health care professionals from delivering surgical or hormonal transition treatments to transgender youth.

The 33-22 vote came despite opposition from Democrats who said the restrictions would threaten the mental health of transgender children. Republican state Sen. Carden Summers countered that it would delay decisions that “will alter their lives forever” until adulthood.

The GOP-backed measure also served as a reminder that transgender-related restrictions have become a go-to for Republicans even as they skirt other controversial base-pleasing issues in a non-election year legislative session.

Proposals to restrict abortions, expand gun rights, limit how sex and gender are taught in public schools, allow Buckhead to secede from Atlanta and resuscitate a “religious liberty” debate all failed to advance ahead of Monday’s Crossover Day deadline.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 140 advanced on a party-line vote with Republicans rallying behind the measure. While it wouldn’t ban medication that slows or stops puberty, it would restrict doctors from performing gender-affirming surgery or giving hormones to children.

If the restrictions pass the House, it will mark the second consecutive year that Georgia legislators took aim at transgender issues. Gov. Brian Kemp last year approved a law that allowed high schools to ban transgender girls from competing in women’s sports.

“We should be supporting these individuals,” Democratic state Sen. Jason Esteves said, “not making it harder for them.”

It’s part of a raft of measures in Republican-led states that target gender-affirming treatments. At least four states — Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah — have adopted similar restrictions. Federal judges in Alabama and Arkansas have temporarily blocked limits in those states. And legislative proposals are advancing in a dozen other states.

Democrats warn that this rush comes at a devastating price. State Sen. Kim Jackson, a Decatur pastor, said the new restrictions would only heighten the mental health anguish for those with gender dysphoria, a distress over the mismatch of their birth sex and gender identity.

“If it becomes law, we know that this bill actually may be deadly. Deadly,” said Jackson, the chamber’s first openly LGBTQ member.

To supporters who raised worries about the lasting effect of a surgical procedure, Jackson offered a question of her own.

“Do you know what the ultimate most irreversible thing is? Suicide. It’s death,” she said. “For me, this is about mental health care more than anything else.”

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /