© 2024 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

More than a dozen AGs from other states vow to fight gender-affirming care bill in Maine

The State House is seen at dawn, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
The State House is seen at dawn, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, in Augusta, Maine.

The attorneys general from 15 states are wading into a controversial policy debate in Maine over access to gender-affirming care, vowing to fight a proposal that they contend would violate the U.S. Constitution.

In a highly unusual move, the attorneys general called a bill under consideration by the Maine Legislature "constitutionally defective" in a strongly worded letter that highlights the ongoing culture war over transgender rights in the country. The attorneys general pledged to "vigorously avail ourselves of every recourse our Constitution provides" to fight the bill if it is signed into law.

The bill in question, LD 227, proposes a "shield law" to protect transgender individuals who receive gender-affirming care in Maine — regardless of what state they live in — as well as the medical professionals who provide that care. The measure seeks to build on protections passed last year for medical professionals as well as patients who receive abortions in Maine.

The measure is a response to laws passed in more than 20 other states that have restricted access to hormone therapy, surgery and other types of gender-affirming care. Access to such care is particularly contentious when it comes to minors.

But in their letter sent Monday, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and 14 of his colleagues portrayed the bill as an attempt to bully officials in other states. In particular, the group took issue with language that would allow health care providers in Maine to counter-sue states that go after them for providing gender-affirming care.

They predicted the proposal could lead to legal conflicts between states on a host of issues.

"In America, we have the right to disagree," the group wrote. "Maine has every right to decide what Maine's laws are and how those laws should be enforced. But that same right applies to every state. One state cannot control another. The totalitarian impulse to stifle dissent and oppress dissenters has no place in our shared America."

The letter was signed by the attorneys general from Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Indiana, Oklahoma, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and West Virginia. It was addressed to Maine Gov. Janet Mills, Attorney General Aaron Frey, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross and Senate President Troy Jackson, all of whom are Democrats.

Hundreds of people showed up at the State House in Augusta for the public hearing on the bill last week.

Supporters say the measure is needed to protect access to reproductive and gender-affirming care at a time when courts and lawmakers in more conservative states are restricting access. Officials in some states that have restricted access have vowed to prosecute abortion providers in other states and have sought records from medical providers and groups that help transgendered youth.

Opponents of LD 227, meanwhile, contend it could violate parental rights. Some conservatives have taken the rhetoric gone even farther, suggesting the bill could lead to kidnapping and "trafficking" of children to Maine from other states so that they could receive gender-affirming care.

Last year, the Legislature passed and Mills signed into law a bill that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds who have been diagnosed with "gender dysphoria" to receive gender-affirming hormone therapy without a parent's consent in some circumstances. The law does not allow gender-affirming surgery without parental consent, however.

The Legislature's Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee is slated to hold a work session on the latest controversial bill in the coming weeks.