Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has signed a bill into law that bans most gender-affirming care for transgender minors, making that state the latest to target trans youth in legislation.
Kemp, a Republican, signed Senate Bill 140 on Thursday, banning surgery and hormone treatment for people under 18 who want to use it for gender transition, while allowing the use of puberty blockers.
Youth using hormone therapy before July 1, when the law goes into effect, can stay on the treatment.
All the major medical groups say genital surgery is not recommended for minors, but the other treatments are appropriate.
Violating the law is punishable by revocation of a doctor’s license.
Kemp didn’t host a signing ceremony for the legislation. He made an announcement on Twitter.
Kemp said he supported the bill to save children. Many lawmakers around the county have used the same justification for legislation that targets trans minors and restricts families, parents, and their doctors from making personal medical decisions.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Carden Summers, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was “tickled” that Kemp quickly signed the bill — It passed the legislature Tuesday.
Summers said SB 140 was not a “zero-tolerance” bill like other states had passed, but Democratic politicians and LGBTQ+ activists said it will hurt young people, and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter promised to sue.
Democrat state Sen. Josh McLaurin added: “Kids will commit suicide. Kids will feel like they’re not being heard, that their basic existence is being invalidated and erased.”
The Trevor Project, the suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, said in a 2022 report that 55% of transgender and nonbinary youth in Georgia “seriously considered suicide in the past year” and 16% attempted suicide in the same timeframe.
The bill allows exemptions to SB 140 “for individuals born with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development” and other medical conditions, but it doesn’t include gender dysphoria – a psychological distress that may result when a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not align, according to the American Psychiatric Association – among them.
Major medical associations agree that gender-affirming care is clinically appropriate for children and adults with gender dysphoria.
Though the care is highly individualized, some children may decide to use reversible puberty suppression therapy. This part of the process may also include hormone therapy that can lead to gender-affirming physical change.
The Georgia bill does not explicitly prohibit puberty blockers, breaking with similar bans across the country. Instead, the bill focuses on hormone therapy that involves more permanent effects, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says the treatment can help transgender people with depression and increase self-esteem.
Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said the legislation “is a clear attack on the rights of transgender children, their parents, and the medical community in Georgia as a whole. We know that Georgia is better than this and that the majority of Georgians stand with us on the right side of history.”
The Georgia bill is similar to other states that have banned gender-affirming care for minors. Those states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah.
Florida has put one in place through its medical boards and is considering a bill for an even stricter measure.
The Alabama and Arkansas bans are temporarily blocked by court action.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a bill last week that combines a ban on gender-affirming care with restrictions on LGBTQ+ content in schools and other provisions, but Republicans in the legislature might have enough votes for an override.