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Nation's Trans Kids Would Be Offered 'Place of Refuge' in California With New Bill

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seen from behind, child in puffy coat sits on back of an adult, holding sign reading 'protect trans kids'
Parents and kids attend a rally supporting transgender youth in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 6, 2022. New California legislation would offer legal protections to trans kids and their parents who face criminal prosecution or forcible separation in other states. (Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

New California legislation announced Thursday would provide legal protections for transgender kids and their parents who come to the state after facing criminal prosecution or being threatened with forcible separation in other states such as Texas, where the governor has directed state agencies to consider removing trans children from their families and placing them in foster care.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, who co-sponsored the legislation, said it would prohibit California courts from honoring court judgments separating parents from their children due to parents supporting their kids’ access to gender-affirming health care, such as hormone therapy or gender-affirmation surgery. It also would bar California from complying with out-of-state subpoenas seeking health-related information about people who come to California to receive gender-affirming care. To be blocked, such a subpoena would have to be related to attempts to file criminal charges or remove children from their homes for receiving gender-affirming care.

“The history of the LGBTQ community is a history of criminalization and violence — society trying to erase us and then punishing us if we refuse to be erased, whether by death, incarceration, beatings, lobotomies, electric shock therapy, conversion therapy or other forms of violence,” said Wiener during a press briefing outside the state Capitol on Thursday. “California will not be a party to this new wave of deadly LGBTQ criminalization.”

The measure, co-sponsored by Equality California and Planned Parenthood, also would declare that any out-of-state criminal arrest warrant for someone based on violating another state’s law against receiving gender-affirming care, would be the lowest priority for law enforcement in California.


A bill recently blocked in Idaho would have made it a felony for parents to consent to, or medical professionals to provide, gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Advocates of California’s measure said there also are legislative efforts to restrict gender-affirming care pending in Louisiana, Alabama and Arizona. Arkansas last year became the first state to pass a law prohibiting gender-affirming treatments for minors, and Tennessee has approved a similar measure.

“As long as one red state proposes an anti-LGBTQ piece of legislation, whether it’s banning marriage equality, whether it’s attacking kids, whether it be adoption, they all copy each other and it spreads like wildfire throughout the country,” Wiener said.

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Last week, a Texas judge temporarily blocked a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott calling for child abuse investigations of parents who seek gender-affirming medical care for their transgender children. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton plans to appeal.

“Parents should not live in fear of being hunted down by the Texas government for loving and supporting their child,” said Equality California’s Executive Director Tony Hoang. “As a native Texan, I’m ashamed of Gov. Abbott’s hateful attacks against trans kids and their families. But as a Californian, I’m so proud of our state for serving as a beacon of hope and a place of refuge for those children and their parents.”

During Thursday’s press briefing, Lauren Pulido, co-executive director of the Gender Health Center, described seeing the positive effects of gender-affirming care on his clients.

He said that, as a trans man speaking on the one-year anniversary of top surgery, he knows how harmful it can be to feel trapped in one’s body.

“Begging to be free to be the person I was all along,” he said. “As an adult, I know firsthand how life-changing this experience can be … Our trans siblings in Texas deserve that freedom, and we as leaders in California and in the LGBT community have an obligation to use our privilege and platforms to help them.”

Lisa Matsubara with Planned Parenthood said California should always be a safe haven for people to receive the medical care they need and deserve.

“And that includes abortion and gender-affirming care,” she said. “It’s really important to remember that we don’t live in a vacuum, and what happens in other states does impact us in California.”

This story includes reporting from KQED’s Holly McDede, Spencer Whitney and The Associated Press.

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