CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s Republican supermajority House of Delegates passed a bill Friday banning gender–affirming surgery and hormone therapy for minors, a day after crowds descended on the state Capitol to decry the proposal.
The legislation passed 84–10, with all ‘no’ votes coming from the body’s shrinking delegation of Democrats, who accused GOP lawmakers of putting children’s lives at risk to score political points with the national conservative movement.
West Virginia’s bill, which now heads to the state Senate, prohibits physicians from providing gender–affirming surgery or hormone therapy for minors. West Virginia has a Republican governor and one of the largest Republican majorities in any state legislature in the country, and the legislation has a high chance of becoming law.
It provides exceptions for individuals born with a “medically verifiable disorder” including people with “external biological sex characteristics that are irresolvably ambiguous” and for people taking treatments for infection, injury, disease, or disorder that has been “caused by or exacerbated by the performance of gender transition procedures.”
People can also access the treatment if they are in “imminent danger of death, or impairment of a major bodily function unless surgery is performed.”
Republican Del. Geno Chiarelli called said even youth aren’t getting gender–affirming surgeries in West Virginia right now, there’s no telling what could happen in the future.
“We can be pro–active instead of reactive,” he said. “That’s the kind of conservative legislators that our voters want.”
“This body effectively banned abortion last year, and now there’s more of us here than before,” he continued. “There’s an appetite for this kind of legislation, and I encourage you all to vote yes.”
Republican Del. Rick Hillenbrand spoke in support of the bill, saying he has nothing against transgender people. He just doesn’t think children should be taking hormones or having surgery to treat gender dysphoria until they’re older.
“If you’re an adult, and that’s what you want to do, I say: ‘Go for it,‘” he said. “Rather, this is a bill about protecting our youth.”
Republican Del. Jim Butler agreed, saying people’s brains are still developing when they are teenagers and they are too young to be making decisions they have to “live with for the rest of their lives.”
“That’s why we don’t have voting below 18 years old, that’s why we don’t send our children into circumstances where they have to make this type of decision in any other case that I can think of,” he said.
Before the majority passed the bill overwhelmingly, Democratic Del. Joe Garcia implored lawmakers to think of the around 80 doctors, parents and LGBTQ people who came to the Capitol on Thursday to speak against the bill during a public hearing. Only two people showed up to speak in support.
Many of the people who spoke at the hearing noted the disproportionate rate of suicide and suicide attempts among transgender youth.
“I don’t want to judgments about what’s in people’s hearts, but the bill itself bullies people who are different — it harms people who are different,” he said.