The Wisconsin State Assembly has passed controversial new legislation limiting transgender participation in youth sports and outlawing so-called gender-affirming surgery for minors.
According to CBS News, while the Republican-dominated Assembly has already approved the bill, it must now face review before the Senate.
The Senate, notes The Associated Press, also has a conservative majority. However, the state’s Democratic governor—Tony Evers—has already pledged to veto the legislation should it pass both chambers of government.
“We’re going to veto every single one of them,” Evers told transgender youth and advocates outside the state Capitol. “I know you’re here because you’re pissed off and you want to stop it, and you will stop it, and I’ll help you stop it.”
Nevertheless, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican representing the 63rd District, said that advancing the bills under threat of veto “is the right thing to do for Wisconsin families.”
The Associated Press reports that, to date, at least 22 states have enacted similar laws restricting or outright banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
Similarly, nearly two-dozen states have also passed laws intended to curb transgender participation in youth sports.
In Wisconsin, the state’s Interscholastic Athletic Association currently requires transgender athletes to undergo hormone therapy before they can play on teams of their choice. This policy is purportedly modeled on the N.C.A.A.’s requirements for transgender sportspeople.
The Assembly is now trying to expand upon this policy by advancing three separate proposals. One would limit high school athletes to playing on teams that correspond to their biological sex, while another would apply the same restriction to college athletes.
The third would prohibit physicians from performing gender-affirming surgery on children.
While many activists and advocacy organizations—including the A.C.L.U. and the Wisconsin School Social Workers Association—have lobbied against the bills, Vos and other state Republicans have railed against social acceptance of transgender persons and transgender acceptance.
Vos, for instance, has called gender-affirming surgery a form of “mutilation,” suggesting that it serves no better purpose than mid-century lobotomies.
“It’s interesting if you go back in history, the way to treat mental illness 50 to 100 years ago was a lobotomy,” Vos said at a press conference. “And at the time that was settled science. That was just the way it was supposed to be.”
“We can go back to example after example after example where the human mind has been opened to say there are different ways of doing things and it shouldn’t necessarily be a one-size-fits-all solution because we have settled science,” he said.
However, somewhat interestingly, even the bill’s chief Assembly sponsor—Rep. Barbarba Dittrich (R-38)—said in legislative debates that she only knows of six transgender athletes in the entire states.
Democrats have, not surprisingly, said that the relative scarcity of actual transgender athletes shows that conservatives are simply trying to use transgender youth as a scapegoat in America’s ongoing culture war.
“The mere introduction of policy to separate children based on their identity is inherently disrespectful and harmful to the people we have pledged to serve,” Rep. Kristina Shelton (D-90) said in a statement. “Their lives are not up for debate.”