California becomes first state to offer legal refuge for trans youth and families

A person wears a trans Pride flag and waves a matching flag in their hand during a protest

California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill making the state a refuge for trans youth and their families from bans against gender-affirming care elsewhere in the US. 

Senate Bill 107, which will go into effect on 1 January 2023, will safeguard against out-of-state efforts to penalise families that travel to California seeking gender-affirming medical treatment for their trans children.  

Senator Scott Wiener, who introduced the bill, said on Twitter the bill will “offer refuge” to trans kids and their families if “they’re being criminalised in their home states”. 

“States like Texas and Alabama are seeking to tear these families apart,” Wiener wrote. “California won’t be party to it. We have your backs.”

The new law will prohibit California courts and attorneys from enforcing out-of-state subpoenas related to gender-affirming care for minors. 

It would also give California courts the authority to make an initial child custody determination if the child is in the state to obtain gender-affirming healthcare like puberty blockers or hormone therapy. 

SB 107 will mandate that any potential out-of-state arrest warrant for violating laws relating to trans healthcare will be given the “lowest law enforcement priority”.

Newsom said in his signing message that laws in conservative states attempting to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth “demonise” the community and their families, which he said is utterly “unacceptable”. 

“In California, we believe in equality and acceptance,” Newsom said. “We believe that no one should be prosecuted or persecuted for getting the care they need — including gender-affirming care.” 

He continued: “Parents know what’s best for their kids, and they should be able to make decisions around the health of their children without fear. 

“We must take a stand for parental choice.”

California governor Gavin Newsom gestures with one hand as he speaks to a crowd off camera

California governor Gavin Newsom said it’s important that no one be “prosecuted or persecuted for getting the care they need – including gender-affirming care”. (Getty)

The law was inspired in part by Texas governor Greg Abbott, who called on state officials to investigate any instances of minors undergoing gender-affirming healthcare as ‘child abuse’. Following the February directive, the state’s department of family and protective services opened at least nine investigations

A Texas judge temporarily blocked the state from carrying out such investigations, but the case is still making its way through the legal system. 

Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed a bill in April that makes it a felony for medical professionals to provide gender-affirming medical care to individuals under the age of 19. A judge partially blocked enforcement of the anti-trans law in May. 

Wiener said California must move to protect the LGBTQ+ community as “so many states work to erase trans kids and criminalise their families”

“With SB 107 signed into law, California is forcefully pushing back against the anti-LGBTQ hatred spreading across parts of our nation,” Wiener said. “The rainbow wave is real, and it’s coming.”