Missouri governor pushes ban on kids' gender-affirming care

·3 min read

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Republican governor on Thursday said he's ready to force lawmakers to keep working if they do not send him bills putting limits on transgender kids' health care and participation in sports by the session's upcoming end.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson confirmed that he plans to call a special legislative session if lawmakers fail to pass bills on transgender issues by the May 12 end of their regular session.

Parson's last-minute push comes amid widespread support for those bills in both the GOP-led House and Senate but disagreement over the best approach.

House and Senate leaders on Thursday assured reporters that the policies will get passed. But a legislative game of chicken over whether the House or Senate version becomes law has delayed a final vote.

“The House is going to pass our bill," Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said. “We’ve done our work, and everything else is hypothetical.”

House Speaker Dean Plocher said his chamber's version is “far more conservative." He bristled at the expectation that the House follow the lead of the Senate, where power is less consolidated and controversial bills rarely pass without compromise.

“The Senate is welcome to take up our bills over there as well," Plocher said.

In the Senate, where the Democratic minority holds more negotiating power, lawmakers agreed to allow kids whose gender-affirming treatment is already underway to continue receiving that health care. The Senate ban would expire in 2027.

The House version does not include exceptions for in-progress treatments and would not expire unless repealed by future lawmakers or by citizens through an initiative petition.

“I can’t use the word that one is better than the other, because this whole discussion is disgusting,” Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade said. “But I will tell you that the work that the Senate Democrats did in putting the grandfather clause in there and the sunset, is important.”

The Senate passed legislation to ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams from kindergarten through college, both at public and private schools. The law would expire in 2027.

The House version would apply to student athletes beginning in grade 6 and would not expire.

Republican infighting in the Legislature comes amid an effort by GOP Attorney General Andrew Bailey to put strict limits on gender-affirming treatments for both adults and children through consumer-protection regulations.

A St. Louis County judge temporarily pushed back the effective date of the rule from Thursday to Monday, but she's considering delaying its effectiveness even longer while a legal challenge to it plays out in court.

The attorney general's rule will require people to have experienced an “intense pattern” of documented gender dysphoria for three years and to have received at least 15 hourly sessions with a therapist over at least 18 months before receiving puberty blockers, hormones, surgery or other treatment. Patients also must first be screened for autism and “social media addiction,” and any psychiatric symptoms from mental health issues would have to be treated and resolved.

Some people would be able to maintain their prescriptions while undergoing required assessments.

Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press