Gender-affirming bill draws GOP criticism; action postponed

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines


A bill providing more protections for gender-affirming care in Delaware has been postponed.
Photo by Alexander Grey, Unsplash

A bill introduced Thursday adding protections for gender-affirming care in Delaware has drawn criticism from Republicans for the impact it would have on parental rights.

House Bill 230, sponsored by Rep. Deshanna Neal, D-Elsmere, would protect medical providers in Delaware who provide gender-affirming care from being prosecuted by other states that ban the practice.

Neal said in a statement Friday that the bill will not go in front of a committee this year.

“I want to be clear that I filed this bill to begin the conversation and open a dialogue on the issue,” said Neal, who uses they/them/their pronouns. “I will not be pushing the bill forward in committee this year. Instead, I want to spend the break building support and educating people about this very critical – and very misunderstood – issue.”

The General Assembly’s legislative session lasts two years. Any bill introduced this year can be heard next year, too, without being reintroduced. If it fails then, the bill must be reintroduced for the next session.

HB 230 defines gender-affirming care as:

  • Suppressing the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics. 
  • Aligning the patient’s appearance or body with their gender identity.
  • Alleviating someone’s symptoms of gender dysphoria which cause significant distress. 
  • Finding ways to integrate someone’s gender identity, reduce distress, and increase family acceptance, all in developmentally appropriate ways.

Under the bill, Delaware courts could get temporary emergency jurisdiction if a parent has been unable to obtain gender-affirming care. It would also forbid courts from moving child custody cases to a different state if that other state limits the ability for the child to receive gender-affirming care.

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Courts or agencies from other states removing a child, because that child received gender-affirming care, would not be enforced in Delaware under the bill.

The bill adds gender-affirming care to the definition of reproductive health services in Delaware Code. Under state law,  information about reproductive health services can’t be disclosed without the written consent of the patient, their guardian or legal representative.

Senate Republican Leader Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, and Senate Republican Whip Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, issued a joint statement opposing the bill.

“Children are rarely held criminally liable because they are still developing mentally, emotionally and cognitively,” Hocker and Pettyjohn said. “They do not have the same level of judgment or grasp of their consequences as adults. 

“So, why would we permit a child to undergo irreversible changes to his or her body when their minds and bodies have yet to mature? This is possibly the most blatant erosion of parental rights in the history of our state.”

Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford, said he’s opposed to the bill because children might not be certain they want to change their sex.

“Their so-called gender-affirming care,” Richardson said. “Well, this is saying that a child can say that, maybe through social media pressure or just get the idea in their head that they’re not satisfied with their current condition, they want to change things. But then going to the radical change of changing your biological sex to the opposite sex. To me, it’s outrageous.”

While Richardson said that he believes children shouldn’t be allowed to have the procedure, he is ok with adults being able to so long as insurance doesn’t cover it.

“I don’t think taxpayers should pay for it,” Richardson said. “And I don’t think insurance companies should pay for it because ultimately it’s other insurers that are footing that cost…I think it’s very dangerous for adults to do it. But…it’s legal for adults to do it. So you really can’t control what another adult is doing, but I think you really need to protect children.”

Neal said in the statement HB 230 was filed because of bills passed in other states that restrict gender-affirming care.

“We are seeing other states weaponizing their laws against the transgender community, and we should be clear that we will not let those other states’ laws prevent people from seeking gender-affirming care in Delaware…Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with the reaction of some in Delaware already, more dialogue is needed,” Neal said. “I look forward to future discussions regarding the importance of protecting the rights of those seeking gender-affirming care in Delaware.”

Neal didn’t specify which laws, but 19 states have banned the use of gender-affirming care.

Richardson said he would like Delaware to follow the lead of the other states in restricting gender-affirming care.

Joseph Fulgham, director of policy and communications for the Delaware House Republican Caucus, said they don’t want to comment on the bill until their attorneys look over it.

The bill, which doesn’t require a fiscal note, has five additional sponsors and cosponsors, all Democrats.

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