Utah governor signs gender-affirming health care ban, school choice bills into law

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Saturday signed a bill banning gender-affirming surgery on minors who have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. 

The state’s Republican-dominated Legislature prioritized the ban and considered a first draft of the measure less than 10 days ago, two days after the Legislature opened this year’s session Jan. 17. Gov. Cox signed it a day after the Legislature sent it to his desk. 

The governor said it was important to pause ‘these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.’

‘While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures,’ he said.

Among the critics is the ACLU of Utah, which on Friday urged Cox to veto the bill.

In a letter to Cox, the civil rights organization said it was deeply concerned about ‘the damaging and potentially catastrophic effects this law will have on people’s lives and medical care and the grave violations of people’s constitutional rights it will cause.

‘By cutting off medical treatment supported by every major medical association in the United States, the bill compromises the health and well-being of adolescents with gender dysphoria. It ties the hands of doctors and parents by restricting access to the only evidence-based treatment available for this serious medical condition and impedes their ability to fulfill their professional obligations,’ the letter said.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Mike Kennedy, a Republican family doctor has said government overnight is necessary for vital health care policy related to gender and youth. 

‘Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation. While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Sen. Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue,’ Cox said in a statement. 

‘More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.’

Utah’s bill comes as lawmakers in at least 18 states consider similar bills targeting health care for young transgender people.

Cox also signed another measure that would give students school-choice style scholarships to attend schools outside the public education system. The bill also increased teacher pay and benefits in an effort to ease the state’s teacher shortage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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