Five bills before the 2023 Utah Legislative Session that directly affect Utah’s LGBTQ community are related to transgender surgery issues. Two are fairly identical in that they target surgery or hormone treatments on minors. Another requires schools to notify parents if a child wants to use a different name than what’s on their records. A fourth bill would have Utah’s employee health benefits plan cover gender-confirming surgery for adult state workers. A last bill bans minors from changing their birth certificates.
SB16 Transgender Medical Treatments and Procedures
Sen. Michael S. Kennedy drafted a substitute bill to SB16, which would prohibit Utah doctors from performing “sex characteristic surgical procedures” on a minor.
Before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee hearing during the October interim session of the Utah Legislature, Kennedy said it was “with some reluctance that [he] enter into the policy debate regarding the health care of transgender minors.”
He went on to misstate the policies supported by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Endocrine Society, saying the organizations are against sex changes in minors.
He also characterized such surgeries as “weak” and “novel.”
In his new draft, the bill would require the Utah Dept. of Health to study hormonal and transgender treatments, require the Division of Professional Licensing to create a certification for providing “hormonal transgender treatments,” and prohibit health care providers from using hormonal treatments for any new patients, threatening such doctors with a malpractice suit.
Transgender advocate Sue Robbins explains the bill in lay-person terms.
“If you take this to a high level to weed out specifics, the bill allows continuing of existing, ongoing treatment programs for minors but will block new treatment programs. A study will be conducted by Health and Human Services and that will be used for future decisions by the legislature,” she said. “We have seen this malpractice verbiage before and it ultimately makes doctors back away from providing healthcare either to remove risk or due to increased insurance. This is a very dangerous insertion.”
HB132 Prohibiting Sex Transitioning Procedures on Minors
Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City, introduced a bill that is similar to Sen. Michael Kennedy’s SB16 that prohibits sex reassignment surgeries on minors, but includes hormonal treatments as well. His similar bills in the past two years have not been considered by the full legislature because of problems in their drafting. While this bill addresses more of what was called “unintended consequences,” it is more likely that Kennedy’s bill will be the one that moves forward.
SB 93 Vital Records Modifications
Utah SB93 is written to deny minors the ability to change their birth certificate to reflect their desired name. Two similar laws in Idaho were permanently enjoined in federal court for violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The Idaho cases were not specifically targeted at minors.
The bill does allow for changes to birth certificates that contain certain errors.
HJR 5 Joint Resolution for Gender Reassignment Surgical Health Benefits
HJR 5 is a bill sponsored by Rep. Sahara Hayes, D-Millcreek, that would direct the states health insurance provider, Public Employees’ Benefit and Insurance Program, to provide gender reassignment surgical benefits to state employees and beneficiaries.
“Medical professionals have found gender reassignment surgery for adults medically necessary to treat persistent and extended gender dysphoria,” the bill reads. “Many insurance plans and employers in Utah offer gender reassignment surgical benefits.”
The resolution requires the person seeking the surgery to be over 18, to have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria for at least a year and undergone hormone treatment, changed their name, and presented as their desired gender for a year.
SB100 School District Gender Identity Policies
This bill is being sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler and would require schools to notify parents is a child seeks to be addressed by a name other than what is on their school records or to use a different pronoun. It further prohibits the school from using the name or pronoun until there is parental consent.
“If every teacher is getting a memo and said, we’re calling Mike ‘Mikell’ or something like that and it’s a school policy – substitute teachers are being informed but the parents are being kept secret, that’s being withheld from the parents – that’s where I think, in my mind, that kind of crosses a line,” Weiler told KUTV News.
Robbins says she is concerned about helping transgender youth stay safe at school.
Weiler said it’s about balancing the needs of the children while also respecting the rights of parents.