Jefferson City GOP lawmakers prioritize transgender-related legislation.
Last Monday, House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, declared, “That is a priority.” “We’ll defend women’s sports. We’ll safeguard pediatric surgery.”
Why transgender problems are so important in Missouri politics and policy is debated by Plocher’s supporters and detractors.
Republican supporters say they are seeking to recapture territory against what they perceive as toxic left-wing ideals at a time when same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights are more popular than 20 years ago. They also claim that restricting transgender adolescent health care protects children.
Opponents perceive these plans as a cynical political attempt to boost Republican excitement at the expense of a vulnerable LGBTQ minority. They also say Missouri’s image isn’t worth Republicans’ political gains.
“Missourians are wondering not if I go, but when I leave,” said Shira Berkowitz, senior director for policy and advocacy for PROMO, a Missouri LGBTQ rights group. “I believe it’s really terrifying for either parent raising transgender kids or transgender Missourians living here.” Priority
The first part of the 2023 Missouri General Assembly session saw protracted committee hearings and heated floor arguments over transgender measures.
- denying kids gender-affirming health care such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender reassignment procedures.
- banning transgender girls from sports.
- preventing instructors from discussing sexuality and gender.
- Limiting tiny drag performances.
For the past few months, GOP-controlled states have embraced these proposals. Tennessee, Florida, and Iowa ban gender-affirming care for kids. North Dakota and Arkansas have banned drag shows.
“What we see from the left is they’re attempting to put their agendas on other people,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a potential GOP governor candidate in 2024. “Republicans usually respond, ‘Look, we disagree. You can. Don’t make us say that.”
“I think most Republicans at least would say: ‘Don’t do that to a minor,’” he said of gender-affirming health care.
The legislative and campaign trail prioritize these problems. At this year’s Missouri Republican Party Lincoln Days in Springfield, several 2024 contenders supported excluding transgender youngsters from specific health services and female sports.
“We have to convey a clear message, which is anchored in the truth of the Bible and all of our history,” said U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, who is fighting for reelection next year. ‘Guess what? “God formed you what you are, and that’s OK.”
The Kansas City Star noted that Hawley and others’ polling showed voters are worried about transgender problems and have helped legislators promote the topic.
Conservative media and social media have amplified transgender-related initiatives. State Sen. Rusty Black said the COVID-19 epidemic three years ago boosted Republican voter interest.
“Grandparents are calling me about these issues,” said Black, R-Chillicothe. “And for some reason at that time when we were at home and ceased rushing to the park or whatever else we were doing, folks got so much more obsessive about their children and grandkids.
“We’ve got to do something about it,” he said. “What we’ve got to hope at the end is… if we do something about it, we do something that does the least amount of harm.”
Republican proponents of transgender initiatives are accused of pursuing political gain above good policy.
Sen. Greg Razer, Missouri’s first out homosexual senator, said Missouri Republicans’ exploitation of social wedge issues to rally their supporters may explain the desire to limit transgender rights.
The Kansas City Democrat noted that because Missouri outlawed most abortions and relaxed gun laws, Republicans can’t exploit social concerns to excite people.
“You have to develop a new social wedge issue,” Razer remarked. They expected critical race theory. Dart failed. They want trans kids to remember it. If it doesn’t work, they’ll try another.”
Razer added that adopting transgender legislation may benefit Republicans in the near run, but the topic isn’t as politically potent as they think. Even though she opposed Gay rights, former Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler lost the GOP Senate race.
Berkowitz said PROMO saw GOP opposition to transgender rights as “a genuine misunderstanding of who is transgender and what makes somebody transgender.”
“The youngsters that speak in the Missouri legislature say things like ‘I’m supported in my family. School supports me. My professors address me properly. My classmates know me. Just our state leaders don’t.”
In January, Clayton High School junior Chelsea Freels spoke about legislation banning minors from gender-affirming care.
Two of these legislation say they safeguard children. “Saving Adolescents from Experimentation” is another. What are you shielding me from? Freels stated. I changed recently. I’m happier than ever. No more depression. No more suicide. I have fantastic friends since transitioning.”
Filibuster may stop bills
Democrats can filibuster Senate Republicans to change transgender rights measures, unlike in other GOP states.
Razer said Missourians should be delighted with the strong filibuster. The powerful filibuster helps the minority party curb the ruling party’s extremism. I believe that’s the point.”
Razer noted that Republicans may employ the “nuclear option” to break a filibuster, but Senate Democrats may block additional GOP goals. “Walk away with some notion that these kids are going to be OK” is his ultimate objective.
Razer added, “They’ll utilize the nuclear option to approve this bill.” “I simply want to finish.”
Eight senators who favor the prohibition on gender-affirming care for kids wrote that they are “unmoved by threats to postpone progress on the state budget — or any other issue — if [Sen. Mike Moon’s legislation] is brought up for a vote.”
“We will safeguard kids,” the letter said.
Rep. Barbara Phifer fears about the state and herself.
Transgender grandchild of Kirkwood Democrat. She said Missouri’s credibility will suffer if GOP colleagues follow other states.
How can Missouri entice educated individuals to reside there? Phifer. “Nobody’s coming.”
Gov. Mike Parson hopes lawmakers can cool off before adjourning in mid-May.
“There are a lot of hot-button topics up there,” Parson remarked. “Hopefully you’ll get everyone to the table and achieve a solution.”