Arizona Republican joins party to stop transgender health care ban

Arizona's state legislators have filed the most antiLGBTQ bills in the country this year.

Arizona Republican joins party to stop transgender health care ban

Arizona Republican State Senator John McCain broke with his party to block legislation that would have prohibited gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The vote was split 4-4 by Tyler Pace, a state senator. He voted with three Democrats from the Arizona Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee. This effectively killed the bill. Pace stated that he views "both sides" but was ultimately influenced by personal stories from LGBTQ youths, their families, and their opinions.


 

"The testimony we heard today about how many people are using these avenues to medical treatments to save lives and to improve lives," he stated during the hearing. "I don’t want my vote stopping those great things."

The break by the Republican lawmaker from his party was from the national push by conservative legislators to enact a number of bills that critics claim unfairly discriminate against gays and trans Americans.

According to Freedom for All Americans, this was the " worst year for antiLGBTQ legislation" in recent history. This year, more than 160 antiLGBTQ bills were filed by Republican state legislators, which is more than any other year. According to Freedom for All Americans, the majority of these bills, 92, are directed at trans people.

With 15 pieces of legislation being introduced this year, Arizona lawmakers have the most anti-LGBTQ laws of any state.

SB1138 was defeated Thursday. It would have banned health care providers from providing trans and nonbinary minors with gender-affirming services, including reversible hormonal blockers.

Lizette Trujillo testified before lawmakers to defend her trans 14-year old son. She said she was shocked when Pace rejected the measure.

She told NBC News that meeting our children and seeing them in person dispels a lot of the biases people have. "We're just families trying do the right things." Senator Pace must have seen that in that moment.

Arkansas and Tennessee, two states that have adopted similar versions of the Arizona bill as laws last year, are the only ones in the country to do so. After the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the Arkansas law in court, a federal judge blocked it in July. This was in response to trans youth and their families.

Advocates say that even though Arizona failed to pass SB 1138 in Arizona, bills of this type can still worsen the mental health problems plaguing LGBTQ youths.

The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention agency for LGBTQ youth, published a survey in January. It found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of LGBTQ youth believe that state laws restricting transgender rights have had a negative impact on their mental health. More than half of trans and nonbinary youth report that the political discourse surrounding these bills has negatively impacted their mental health.

Researchers at The Trevor Project also discovered that LGBTQ youths who report having at least one LGBTQ affirming space were significantly less likely than others to attempt suicide.

Trujillo stated that his son is proof of the importance of affirming and supportive medical care. His child has never been suicidal, or self-harmed.

The fight for Arizona's LGBTQ youth and advocates is not over,

State legislators will hear oral arguments Monday on a bill that would make transgender people not be allowed to use bathrooms that are compatible with their gender identity. On Wednesday, Arizona's House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to debate a similar version SB 1138, HB 2608. This bill aims at restricting gender-affirming treatment for trans minors.

Some remain optimistic despite the difficulties ahead for Arizona's LGBTQ advocates.

"When people hear about how important gender-affirming and safe care is, they can be won and change their minds and make the right decision," Jeanne Woodbury (policy and communications director at LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality Arizona) said in reference to Pace. "I believe we can continue that."

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