NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
has approved legislation that prohibits gender-confirmation treatment for minors, despite criticism that the series of bills unfairly discriminate against an already vulnerable population.
Tennessee is only the second state in the country to enact such a ban, following Arkansas, which overrode Republican
Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto earlier this year.
Tennessee's version, which takes effect immediately, differs slightly in that doctors are prohibited from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment to prepubescent minors, whereas Arkansas' ban applies to anyone under the age of 18 and specifically prohibits doctors from providing gender-confirming surgery.
It is unclear how many will be affected by the new law, but advocates argue that no doctor in Tennessee is currently providing hormone therapy to youths before they enter puberty, and the Endocrine Society also does not recommend offering puberty blockers or hormone treatments to children
until they reach puberty.
With Lee's approval, Tennessee continued its streak of being on the front lines of Republican statehouses across the country targeting the LGBTQ community through legislation, with only Texas
filing more anti-LGBTQ proposals this year.
Lee, who is up for reelection next year, quietly signed the bill on Tuesday without explaining why he did so. Such bans have been opposed by several medical and child welfare organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.
A day earlier, the first-term Republican governor
signed legislation requiring businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they allow transgender people
to use multiperson bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms associated with their gender identity
. The law, which takes effect on July 1, is the first of its kind to be signed.
In a statement, Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said the organization is "prepared to challenge" the bathroom sign requirement in court and encouraged businesses affected by it to contact the organization.
Lee also signed legislation late last week that puts public schools and districts at risk of civil lawsuits if they allow transgender students or employees to use multiperson bathrooms or locker rooms that do not reflect their sex at birth, according to the Human Rights
Campaign, and it was the first bill restricting bathroom use by transgender people signed in any state in about five years.
Furthermore, Lee approved a ban on transgender athletes
participating in girls public high school or middle school sports
this year, claiming that allowing transgender girls to participate would “destroy women’s sports.”
Lee then signed legislation requiring school districts to notify parents 30 days in advance before teaching students about sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as allow parents to opt their child out of the lesson.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights
organization, said on Wednesday that Lee has made Tennessee a "pioneer in anti-transgender discrimination" by signing a slew of bills that target transgender people.
“If lawmakers truly cared about the best interests of trans youth
, they would focus on improving access to quality health care
rather than playing doctor themselves,” said Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “Patients, parents, and health care providers should be guided by science
and medical best practices rather than the whims of the state leviathan when seeking treatments,” he added.
According to the group, more than 20 anti-LGBTQ bills have been passed this year in the United States.
This report was contributed by Jonathan Mattise in Nashville.