NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Legislation that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth passed the Tennessee Senate on Monday and will now be taken up by the House.
Senate Bill 1 passed in a party-line vote with 26 Republicans voting for it and all six Democrats voting against it.
The bill would ban medical providers from administering care such as puberty blockers, hormone treatment, or surgeries to minors as treatment for gender dysphoria.
A provider who violates the proposed ban would be subject to fines and licensing sanctions. It would also allow minors to sue providers for damages.
The bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), said gender-affirming care is harmful to minors and argued they are not mature enough to consent to care they may later regret.
“I believe that every Tennessean should have an opportunity to live a life of purpose and dignity in a lawful manner that they choose. And if that involves seeking permanent, irreversible alterations to your body, I support your right to do so when you are an adult, not when you are child and you do not have the mental capacity to do so,” Johnson said.
Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said a ban would prevent transgender children from getting necessary care that has been endorsed by multiple large medical associations.
“We’re not talking about a trivial decision that’s being made by a child,” Akbari said. “We are talking about a decision that is made in consultation with parents, psychiatrists, other medical doctors.”
Several medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, have published statements in recent years opposing bans on gender-affirming care for youth.
Tennessee Republicans made the proposed ban a legislative priority after a series of tweets last year by conservative commentator Matt Walsh about Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s transgender clinic. Walsh claimed the clinic “drugs, chemically castrates, and performs double mastectomies on minors.”
The tweets ignited a political firestorm among Republicans, even prompting Gov. Bill Lee to call for an investigation.
In response, Vanderbilt said that since it created its transgender clinic in 2018, it had performed an average of five gender-affirming procedures on minors each year, all of which involved patients 16 years or older. None of those patients received “genital procedures” and each procedure was with parental consent, the hospital said.
Vanderbilt announced a pause on gender-affirming surgeries on minors in October while the hospital reviewed new guidance on transgender care.
The House Civil Justice Committee is scheduled to take up the bill on Wednesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to sue if the bill becomes law.