Tennessee is the latest state to introduce legislation that would ban gender transition treatments on minors, following a handful of others who have enacted similar laws or policies.
State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson and state House Majority Leader William Lamberth, both Republicans, introduced the Protecting Children from Gender Mutilation Act, which not only would ban gender transition surgeries but also the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or other gender-related treatments for minors. It would also create a private right of a minor or the minor’s parents to sue for damages and would allow courts to impose an additional $25,000 penalty for each violation, the Hendersonville (Tennessee) Standard reported.
The bill includes an exception for children born with chromosomal abnormalities or congenital defects.
“One more step toward ensuring our children are never exploited here in Tennessee,” Lamberth wrote in a Facebook message after the bill was filed.
“Interfering or destroying the healthy, normal reproductive organs of a child for the purpose of altering their appearance is profoundly unethical and morally wrong,” Lamberth said in a news release. “Tennesseans across our state have demanded an immediate call to action. Through the passage of House Bill 1/Senate Bill 1, Tennessee will protect vulnerable children who cannot give informed consent for adult decisions they aren’t ready for.”
Johnson said in a statement: “Under no circumstances should minors be allowed to undergo irreversible elective procedures to mutilate body parts and intentionally harm their reproductive systems. This practice comes with lifelong health complications that children are not capable of understanding.”
The bill would also allow the state attorney general to pursue action against a health care provider within 20 years of a violation if the provider knowingly broke the law.
The two lawmakers were spurred to action after conservative commentator Matt Walsh released videos in September purportedly giving evidence of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s plans to begin gender transition surgeries for children. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Bill Lee announced an investigation into Vanderbilt’s practices. Officials at Vanderbilt have denied ever removing or altering genitalia on children.
Johnson told a Nashville television station there were “intentions [by Vanderbilt] to do these kinds of procedures moving forward,” which makes the legislation timely, he said.
The Tennessee legislature convenes again in January.
So far, Alabama, Arkansas and Arizona have enacted laws banning or limiting transgender-related treatments on minors, though not without legal challenges. In Texas, a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott instructs the state to investigate for potential child abuse in cases in which parents have sought gender treatments for their kids. A state judge initially blocked the directive before the Texas Supreme Court ruled it legal, though the court admitted Abbott’s directive doesn’t carry the force of law.
And in Florida, the state’s two largest medical boards approved new care standards on Oct. 28 banning doctors from performing gender transition procedures on minors.
Alabama’s law has been partially blocked in federal court, though provisions banning puberty blockers and hormone therapies remain in effect. The Arkansas law has been held by a preliminary injunction since 2021, and faces the second leg of a lawsuit trial in federal court beginning Nov. 28. Activists have threatened to challenge the Arizona law, though it only addresses gender-transition surgeries on minors.