Utah GOP calls for a ban on elective gender-affirming medical care for minors

Utah lawmakers are likely to consider legislation after Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson signed on to the resolution.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Members of the Utah GOP State Central Committee gather for the organization’s quarterly meeting in Sandy on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.

Utah Republican Party leadership fired a shot across Gov. Spencer Cox’s bow on Saturday, calling for a ban on elective gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Earlier this year, Cox drew the ire of many in the GOP for vetoing a bill banning the participation of transgender athletes in girls’ sports.

The resolution, sponsored by Utah GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen, is titled “Protecting our most vulnerable.” It states the Utah GOP “fully supports the banning of affirmation surgeries, hormone therapy, and puberty-blocking procedures for the purpose of elective gender transitioning on minors.” It then unequivocally supports efforts by elected officials to oppose “these harmful and irreversible procedures being performed on Utah’s children.”

Jorgensen said his resolution is necessary because gender transition in youth is becoming more common.

“As the father of five daughters, this is extremely important to me. I want them to know that they are loved,” Jorgensen said. “They may feel different sometimes, but we’re not going to let this happen to them when they’re at an age where they are too young to understand.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen begins the agenda for the central committee quarterly meeting in Sandy on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022,

In a clear sign that the GOP-dominated Legislature will likely tackle the issue in January’s session, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, both signed on as co-sponsors to Jorgensen’s resolution.

“As we prepare for the legislative session, we will explore possible solutions to protect children. I support this being one of the issues we address during the session,” Adams said in a text message in response to a question about signing on to the resolution.

House Speaker Brad Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.

While the resolution is purely symbolic, having Adams and Wilson on board sends a powerful message to other Republicans in the Legislature. Earlier this year, a bill to ban doctors from performing a transgender procedure on a minor died without a committee hearing. The support of the two top Republicans in the Legislature makes it much more likely lawmakers will consider the issue in 2023.

“This is unheard of to have the speaker of the House and Senate president on board with this resolution to protect our most vulnerable. This hasn’t happened before,” Daniela Harding, Davis County GOP Chair, said. “This will get the attention of the Legislature.”

Most of those supporting the resolution framed the issue as an urgent need to protect children.

“The gender dysphoria issue is so volatile and problematic right now in the state of Utah. There are a lot of people who have been speaking out against all of this, including [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis and a lot of people have heard about it on Fox News,” Teena Horlacher from Davis County said. “This is just experimentation on our children. When you look into it, it’s so disturbing.”

“My religious beliefs aside, which of course say that God made us male and female, this resolution is not about what adults do. We are Americans. We have a Constitution that allows adults to make their own choices,” Jimi Keston from Washington County said. “We must stand for children, or we stand for nothing.”

Rachel Walton, a transgender committee member, urged her colleagues to reject the resolution because it represented government overreach.

“This further alienates a segment of our society from their best quality of life and harms our ability to work together,” Walton said. “This inserts government into our private lives and abandons the cause of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Walton also warned other committee members the resolution could harm Republicans politically.

“Passing this resolution does nothing to advance our platform or win Utah voters,” Walton added. “The future of our party, young voters, are not going to be inspired or feel welcomed by these resolutions.”

Party Vice-Chair Jordan Hess drew applause from several committee members when he praised Walton for her comments and her perspective.

“The left does not have a monopoly on the LGBTQ community. There is room for everyone in this party and I’m so grateful that we have a member of the central committee who is a member of that community and she is welcome here,” Hess said.

Jorgensen’s resolution, which passed with just a handful of “no” votes, was one of two on the subject considered by Utah Republican leaders on Saturday in Sandy. A second, much more detailed proposal called for the Legislature to pass a ban on puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to anyone under 18. It also urged lawmakers to outlaw “mutilating surgery” on a child.

The second proposal leaned heavily on “God-given rights of parents” and warned that “health professionals are pressuring parents and children into transitioning.” It also sounds the alarm that children are identifying as “furries” — a subculture interested in anthropomorphized animals — and would be “seeking medical procedures” based on their feelings.

The second resolution was easily voted down, but not before committee members stripped the reference to “furries.”

It remains to be seen if Gov. Cox will get the message intended by the resolution. He made an appearance on Saturday to speak to committee members but left before discussing the proposal. Cox’s office did not respond to a request for comment.