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Gov. Bill Lee signs ban on gender-affirming care for minors, drag restrictions into law

( MSN )

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed into law a total ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children, despite calls for him to veto the bill and threats of incoming litigation.

Lee also signed off on a new law to prohibit "adult-oriented" entertainment, including "male and female impersonators," from public property and restrict it to age-restricted venues. The legislation was filed after a flurry of controversies over drag shows across the state.

The new health law bans medications such as puberty blockers and hormone treatments to treat any underlying gender dysphoria cause, affecting Tennessee children who identify as transgender and nonbinary. Surgeries, which were rare in Tennessee, are also banned.

Current children who take these medications will have until March 31, 2024, to cycle off of the drugs. The law, which was fast-tracked by the legislature's Republican supermajority in this year's legislative session, will officially go into effect this summer.

The American Civil Liberties Union plans to sue over the bill.

The law was narrowly tailored to not ban any one medication, but rather medical treatment of an underlying diagnosis: gender dysphoria, in addition to "gender identity disorder, gender incongruence, or any mental condition, disorder, disability, or abnormality."

Lawmakers filed the legislation after a high-profile controversy in the fall over Vanderbilt University Medical Center offering gender-transition care. Conservative commentators seized on the issue and misinformation spread that doctors were performing genital surgeries on minors. Vanderbilt denied the claims, while stating they performed a very small number of gender-affirming procedures, chest surgeries, per year on patients 16 and older with full parental consent.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, the House sponsor, said minors lack the maturity to make "life-altering" medical decisions before they become adults.

"These treatments and procedures have a lifetime of negative consequences that are irreversible," he said.

Democrats argued the GOP's position is inconsistent and targeted at trans and nonbinary youth, an already vulnerable population. The law still allows minors to seek cosmetic or gender-affirming surgeries such as breast reductions, as long as gender dysphoria or gender identity issues aren't involved.

"It has nothing to do with protecting children from unnecessary medical procedures," Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, said in a floor debate on the bill. "(Some children) can get their breast enhancements, their nose jobs, that's OK, but these children can't have any medical procedures?"

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