“I cannot possibly overstate the importance of this action,” said a NJ activist who is mother to a trans child.
This week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order making the state a safe haven for health care providers and transgender refugees fleeing states that have banned gender-affirming care for trans youth.
Currently, more than half of transgender youth have lost or are at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care, according to the Human Rights Campaign. New Jersey is estimated to be home to more than 30,000 transgender and nonbinary residents, and is anticipated to face an influx of visitors from states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth.
This week alone, Indiana became the 14th state to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth, North Dakota’s Senate passed a series of anti-trans laws, and Kansas lawmakers authorized genital inspections on children who want to participate in school sports.
Meanwhile, Idaho is poised to pass a law that would make it a felony to provide gender-affirming medical care to minors, and Texas has advanced bills that would defund libraries that host drag events, restrict trans athletes from participating in sports, ban gender-affirming care for trans kids, and block trans youth from updating their birth certificates
“Across the nation, we are witnessing attacks led by certain states that seek to undermine the equality, dignity, and safety of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially transgender and nonbinary youth,” Murphy said in a statement. “As leaders, our greatest responsibility is ensuring that every person we represent, regardless of their gender identity or gender expression, is entitled to respect, fairness, and freedom.”
Murphy’s order mirrors measures he signed into law last year, which enshrined the right to abortion; barred the extradition of people who receive or perform abortions in New Jersey to states where the procedure is restricted or criminalized; and prohibited public agencies from aiding in such investigations. The recent order means that New Jersey agencies will not cooperate with out-of-state extradition or investigations into people who travel to the state to receive gender-affirming care.
Last Friday, on Trans Day of Visibility, New Jersey launched a transgender information hub, a centralized network of state programs and services that support transgender people. The website includes information on matters like changing one’s legal name and finding legal help and mental health support.
“When transgender youth are under attack across the country, this gives me hope,” said youth activist Rebekah Bruesehoff. “I have always been grateful to live in New Jersey, but I am especially proud now to see my state take action that will protect and support not only me but my friends in states across the country. Transgender kids and teens like me just want to live our lives and be ourselves.”
Lawmakers in New Jersey, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington have rushed to protest transgender rights in their states as right-wing lawmakers have introduced a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country.
Many of these states have introduced bills that would protect people’s access to abortion and gender-affirming care. New Mexico’s governor, for example, recently signed a bill that prohibits public bodies from “denying, restricting, or discriminating against an individual’s right to use or refuse reproductive health care or health care related to gender.”
Other states, like Maryland, have moved to expand access to gender-affirming care within their borders. Maryland recently succeeded in passing the Trans Health Equity Act, which will make “medically necessary gender-affirming treatment” a mandatory part of all Medicaid plans, a move that was widely celebrated by grassroots organizers and activists. The group Trans Maryland called the act a “dream of a bill.”
States that have passed bans on gender-affirming care have also gotten pushback from legal advocates, who are fighting the laws in court. Over the past week, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Indiana immediately after a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth was signed into law — alleging that the bill is unconstitutional — and a federal judge temporarily halted Tennessee’s drag ban.“
Going into the summer, I am hoping for a significant number of court victories and a continuation of care for many teens,” transgender activist Erin Reed said on Twitter.
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Zane McNeill is a breaking news writing fellow at Truthout and has written for In These Times, Waging Nonviolence, National Geographic, the Progressive, and Sentient Media. He has a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Central European University and is currently enrolled in law school at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. They can be found on Twitter: @zane_crittheory.