Wyoming bill could take trans kids from parents

Author: Erin Reed

A new bill in Wyoming, House Bill 156, would declare that gender-affirming care is “not in the best interest” of transgender youth within the state. The bill would apply this presumption to custody battles, guardianships, and even the rules around Child Protective Services, raising real concerns that transgender youth could be removed from affirming parents who love them and follow best practice medical guidelines. The bill has 13 sponsors, including the House majority leader, making it a significant threat for passage in the state and appears influenced by a recent social media firestorm among the far-right over a transgender teen in Montana.

The bill specifies, “To the extent applicable, in determining the best interests of the child under state law, there shall be a conclusive presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child to undergo any gender transition or gender reassignment procedures as defined by W.S. 20-2-206(a).” The list includes puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery. The bill then takes the standard, which automatically applies to all state law, and further amends sections on grandparent visitation, petitions for guardianship, custody battles, and Child Protective Services with the standard.

The effects of such a provision could be disastrous for transgender youth and their parents in the state. A non-affirming parent who divorces an affirming parent could use the provisions to take a transgender child in a custody battle over gender-affirming care. A grandparent or relative who does not approve of a transgender youth’s gender transition could argue in court that the parents are not acting in the best interest of the child and are acting in a way that harms them, and instead, they should be appointed emergency guardians. Even worse, Child Protective Services could be weaponized against transgender youth in the state.

Although some Republicans and anti-trans organizations have considered gender-affirming care to be “child abuse,” most states have steered clear of treating it as such, with Florida and Texas as major exceptions. In 2022, Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote a letter stating that gender-affirming care should be treated as child abuse. This kicked off a major effort across the state to investigate the parents of transgender youth and pull those youth aside for questioning by Department of Family and Protective Services investigators. Those efforts have since been blocked in court. In Florida, a bill passed in the state had similar provisions but only applied to the enforcement of child custody orders in disputes between parents.

A recent case in Montana, however, may have spurred this new legislative attempt to target transgender youth through the use of child custody provisions. A suicidal transgender youth in Montana was removed from his home due to alleged unmet medical needs, psychological needs, and neglect and given a placement in a Wyoming facility due to lack of capacity in Montana. Allegedly, the parents refused the move due to the belief that the transgender youth would obtain gender-affirming procedures in Wyoming, despite no evidence showing that this would be the case. It is notable that gender-affirming care is legal in Montana, so such a move would have been wholly unnecessary.

The parents were under a gag order by the state, which they allegedly broke, leading to accounts that have been associated with bomb threats, such as Libs of TikTok, to widely publicize a story with information on the child. Meanwhile, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte stated that after consulting with the director and examining the case documents, the DPHHS and family courts “followed state policy and law in their handling of this tragic case.”

Republicans in Wyoming appear to be reacting to the news of a transgender youth receiving basic mental health crisis care in their state by targeting all transgender youth in the state. This bill could potentially impact child care placements in Wyoming, even potentially preventing transgender foster youth from being placed with parents who would affirm them.

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus, just one week prior to members filing this legislation, stated, “We are sickened by reports that the child was sent to Wyoming to receive these treatments,” even though there is no evidence that any such treatments were received or that the transgender youth was sent to Wyoming for “gender transition treatment.”

“The WYFC will not rest until all gender reassignment abuses are illegal in Wyoming,” they added, indicating their intention for the bill to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse.

The bill has 13 cosponsors, including the House Majority Leader, Chip Neiman, indicating that it poses a significant threat for passage in the state and is a policy priority for House leadership. Should the bill pass, Wyoming would have the broadest provisions around the removal of transgender youth from affirming parents of any state in the United States.

This article originally appeared on Erin in the Morning.

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Erin Reed

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