Trans Rights Under Threat with SB140 Up for Final Vote Today

Student Activists with Georgia Youth Justice Coalition for Change in front of the Georgia Capitol Building in 2022
DeKalb County Students stand with signs telling legislators to keep their “hands off education” during the 2022 legislative session
Credit: Georgia Youth Justice Coalition Twitter

On March 16, the Georgia House passed an amended version SB140, a bill with potentially disastrous consequences for LGBTQ+ youth. The Georgia Senate, where the bill originated, is expected to vote on the amended version of the bill Tuesday.

SB140 prohibits licensed healthcare facilities from performing procedures such as hormone-replacement therapy and gender-transition surgeries for minors with gender dysphoria. The bill cites permanent and irreversible effects. Critics argue that denying these treatments could be harmful to the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth.

A second bill, SB88, the “Parents and Children Protection Act of 2023,” was introduced on Feb. 2 by 10 Republican senators including Sen. Randy Robertson, who also introduced Buckhead secession this term. SB88 severely limits the ability of teachers and educators in both public and private schools alike to engage with students on issues related to gender identity. The bill narrowly defines terms such as “biological sex” and “gender identity,” while also explicitly designating education and information related to sex education and gender identity as “sensitive” and prohibited in schools. SB88 was tabled until the next legislative session.

These bills would endanger the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth.

Cole Muzio is the director of the conservative Georgia-based lobbying group Frontline Policy, which has links to large coalitions of conservative organizations across the United States, including the Heritage Foundation.  To him, “SB140 is a terrible bill. It is a poorly constructed Woke Doctor Protection Act,” says Muzio. Specifically, Muzio takes issue with the “medically necessary” provisions and lack of mention of puberty blockers, which he sees as allowing a legal loophole for doctors to provide care restricted by the legislation. Muzio and Frontline drafted a more restrictive bill, SB141, and a counterpart in the house, HB653, which did not make it out of committee.

Meanwhile, Georgia Youth Justice Coalition (GYJC) stands at the forefront of the fight against these bills. GYJC describes itself as “a coalition of Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ students ages 14-22 fighting for education justice from the classroom to the capitol.” GYJC has a base of more than 1,000 students who engage in campaigns around the state. They took to the floor of the Georgia Capital every day of this legislative session, engaging directly with legislators to voice their opposition. One of these lobbyists is Mason Goodwin, a twenty-year-old public policy student at Georgia State University. He spent the last six weeks bringing this fight to the lawmakers.

“These people are making the decisions, and now I’m here meeting daily with legislators,” says Goodwin. He noted that working with conservative lawmakers is eye-opening. “These are not issues that you can make logical arguments about with them,” he said, adding that conservative legislators “frame it as if medical professionals and teachers are trying to prey upon children.”

Francesca Ruhe, another GYJC representative, noted that there is a fundamental disconnect between legislators, LGBTQ+ youth, and the educators responsible for providing caring and nurturing environments for them at school. This disconnect, as she described it, is indicative of a power dynamic in which lawmakers who rarely step foot in classrooms intervene in educators’ responsibilities to their students by restricting resources to LGBTQ+ youth.

“These are the moves of people who see the future is not theirs ­­— it’s ours. We are the future. We have the audacity, and we must make ourselves as loud as possible,” Ruhe added. Hundreds of people called their local representatives to speak out against the bill during the vote and trans students have given personal testimony to legislators and on social media.

In response to the Senate’s expected vote on SB140, opponents of the bill called for a rally and vigil Tuesday outside the Capitol Building from 4-8 p.m.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will go to Governor Brian Kemp for approval. Should the governor sign it, the bill will take effect July 1, 2023. 

This is not the end of the fight for GYJC. The group of young, energetic policy-advocates plan to work with the department of education and other relevant implementation groups to minimize the harms that these bills will have on youth in Georgia schools.  They will continue to educate policy makers and prepare to combat the next wave of restrictive bills.

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