Wisconsin governor vetoes state’s gender-affirming health care ban

Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday vetoed legislation that sought to bar transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming health care, accusing Republican state lawmakers in a veto message of perpetuating “false, hateful, and discriminatory anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric in our state.”

“This type of legislation, and the rhetoric beget by pursuing it, harms LGBTQ people and kids’ mental health, emboldens anti-LGBTQ hate and violence, and threatens the safety and dignity of Wisconsinites,” Evers wrote Wednesday.

The bill, Assembly Bill 465, would have prohibited health care providers in Wisconsin from administering gender-affirming medical care — including puberty blockers, doses of testosterone or estrogen and certain surgeries — to transgender minors “for the purpose of changing the minor’s body to correspond to a sex that is discordant with the minor’s biological sex.”

Identical treatments would have continued to be available to minors “born with a medically verifiable genetic disorder of sex development,” according to the proposal.

Evers had previously vowed to veto the bill if it reached his desk.

His veto is expected to survive a challenge from Republicans in the state legislature, who voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill in October. While Republicans hold majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly, they do not have enough votes to override the governor’s veto.

Still, Wisconsin Democrats say they must remain “extremely vigilant” in upholding Evers’s vetoes. In the state Assembly, Republicans are just two seats shy of a supermajority, meaning all Democratic Assemblymembers must be present to fend off an override.

Democrats in both chambers this session argued during floor debates that the bill would harm transgender youths in Wisconsin and force health care providers to decide between obeying state law and providing best-practice medical care to their patients.

Republicans, meanwhile, said children and adolescents need to be protected from making health care decisions they may later regret, and suggested the opinions of medical experts — who overwhelmingly support gender-affirming care for transgender youths and adults — are likely to change.

Evers in a statement on Wednesday said health care providers should be trusted to provide medically appropriate care to their patients “without the unnecessary political interference of politicians.”

“I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to restricting physicians from providing evidence-based and medically appropriate care to their patients, restricting parents from making decisions with physicians to ensure their kids receive the healthcare they need, and preventing patients from receiving that basic, lifesaving care,” he said.

Twenty-two states since 2021 have enacted legislation that heavily restricts or bans gender-affirming health care for transgender minors, including 19 that did so this year. A majority have been challenged in court, and laws passed in Indiana, Alabama, Montana and Florida are currently blocked by court orders, according to the Movement Advancement Project, which tracks LGBTQ legislation.

Arkansas’s first-in-the-nation ban was struck down by a federal judge in June. The state has said it will appeal that decision.

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