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The ACLU of Idaho planning legal challenge to law on gender-affirming care for minors

Governor Little signed H71 into law Tuesday night, which outlaws providing gender-affirming care to minors.

IDAHO, USA — The ACLU of Idaho is planning a legal challenge against a new state law that bans gender-affirming care for minors.

Governor Brad Little signed H71 "The Vulnerable Child Protective Act" into law Tuesday night. It outlaws gender-affirming care for transgender minors; including puberty blockers, hormones, and surgeries. The law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024. 

"From the ACLU perspective, we're troubled by the bill for several reasons. It's unconstitutional, blatantly unconstitutional," Amy Dundon, legislative strategist for ACLU of Idaho said. "The reason for that is because it discriminates against a class of people based on transgender status and on sex. So singling out transgender youth, and prohibiting their attainment of health care is discriminatory."

In a statement released Wednesday, the civil rights and liberties nonprofit called the bill a government overreach. 

"The government doesn't have any business interfering with private and frankly - quite personal decisions that folks might make about their health care," Dundon said. 

The ACLU says the law harms health care providers across the state who, under the law, could be charged with a felony for providing gender-affirming care to minors. It also causes a dilemma for the parents of transgender children. 

"Do they ensure the safety of their child, which they know, rests on obtaining the best medical care possible for their kid? Or do they risk criminal charges?," Dundon said. "I think forcing families into that kind of decision making is really unfair, and it's quite sad."

Those behind the bill are confident that the law will be vindicated. Blaine Conzatti is the author of H71.

"We're disappointed that the ACLU would waste taxpayer dollars by attacking constitutionally sound, morally sound, scientifically sound legislation," Conzatti said. "This bill protects kids from harmful drugs and procedures that wreak havoc on children's bodies. It's well within the state of Idaho's prerogative to regulate these types of medical interventions."

Conzatti says the state has a compelling interest to protect the health and morals of its citizens - especially children.  

"It's well within the power of the state to regulate medicine when medicine goes awry, and doctors violate their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm," Conzatti said. "This legislation is constitutional. It's legally sound and defensible, and we will win in court."

Conzatti says the legislation fills the state government's role to protect children. 

"Children who struggle with gender dysphoria need real help, not harm," Conzatti said. "But these sex change drugs and procedures wreak havoc on children's developing bodies."

The lawsuit against the state has not been filed yet. The ACLU is in the process of writing a legal challenge and are looking to partner with anybody who is impacted by the bill. 

"As we move forward and are preparing our lawsuit, we're really interested in working quite closely with folks who are directly impacted," Dundon said. "And that is trans kids, it's their parents, and it's also the healthcare community. So, providers who are worried about this bill, we urge them to get into contact with us and figure out next steps."

The potential lawsuit isn't the first time the ACLU of Idaho has sued the state. They filed a lawsuit on behalf of a transgender athlete over a 2020 law that barred transgender women and girls from taking part in women's sports. 'Hecox v. Little' is still ongoing

"Trans kids are loved," Dundon said. "They deserve to feel love and acceptance just like every other kid. And they deserve to have appropriate health care just like every other kid."

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