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Missouri Senate advances ban on gender-affirming care for youth, limits on transgender athletes

The Missouri Senate, pictured here in March, 2023, voted out a pair of bills targeting transgender youth. Both bills now go to the Missouri House of Representatives.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio.
The Missouri Senate, pictured here in March, 2023, voted out a pair of bills targeting transgender youth. Both bills now go to the Missouri House of Representatives.

Both bills now go to the Missouri House, where leadership says they are a priority.

The Missouri Senate passed bills Thursday barring transgender minors in Missouri from receiving gender-affirming health care and participating in sports that align with their gender identity.

Lawmakers voted 24-8 on the bill targeting transition-related health care and 25-8 on the transgender student athlete bill. Both bills now go to the Missouri House.

Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, spoke on his health care ban before the chamber voted.

“The whole point of this initiative, this measure is to protect the most innocent, the most vulnerable among us,” Moon said.

Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, the only openly gay member of the chamber, apologized to transgender adults and children in the state for the passage of the bill.

“I'm sorry that this is happening to you. I'm sorry that your government is doing this to you. I'm sorry I couldn't do more to protect you. I did everything that I knew how to do,” Razer said.

The legislation would stop transgender children under the age of 18 from getting gender-affirming health care like puberty blockers and hormone treatment. That ban would end four years after going into effect, though lawmakers could extend it.

It also creates a permanent ban on transition-related surgeries.

Although specific statistics on the frequency of surgeries were not immediately available, Shira Berkowitz, senior director of public policy and advocacy at PROMO Missouri, said during a press conference Wednesday that they are incredibly rare, if happening at all, in Missouri.

“From the work that we do, on the policy side, and the people that we interact with both Planned Parenthood and gender clinics across our state, we know that surgeries are not happening on minors,” said Berkowitz, whose group advocates for LGBTQ rights.

Democrats filibustered the legislation for more than 12 hours before the Senate gave initial approval early Tuesday morning.

Some of the modifications made to the bill before it got that approval included the expiration date for the ban on puberty blockers and hormone treatment.

“I think the revisiting of this issue in four years was a big step for us, in my opinion. I don't think there's any other bill that's been passed on this issue that sunsets it,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said Thursday.

The bill includes an exception for minors who are already receiving some gender-affirming health care.

Transgender minors who have been prescribed puberty-blocking drugs or hormone treatments before Aug. 28 would be allowed to continue them.

“I think that the position that we came through with the folks being grandfathered in that have started the process is a good one because it does allow for and make sure that we're not pulling the rug out from under these kids that have started the process,” said Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

The other bill passed Thursday would prohibit transgender athletes from participating in a sport “that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student's biological sex as correctly stated on the student's official birth certificate.”

The ban would apply to students through the collegiate level. It also would apply to public, charter and private schools.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association already has guidelines on sports participation for transgender athletes.

The association did not comment on the bills but said that, based on the applications received, it has approved eight students for participation during the current school year.

For college sports, the NCAA also has guidelines.

The bill would expire in its entirety four years after it goes into effect, though lawmakers could extend that date as well.

Both bills now go to the Missouri House, where Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, has said they are a priority.

However, any changes made to the legislation by the House would send the bills back to the Senate.

“I hope they will recognize how difficult it was to get this thing done and recognize how much easier it is to get something done on their side than it is on ours,” Rowden said.

He added that getting another version passed in the Senate would be difficult.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is St. Louis Public Radio’s Statehouse and Politics Reporter, taking on the position in August 2021. Sarah is from the St. Louis area and even served as a newsroom intern for St. Louis Public Radio back in 2015.
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