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Democratic Wisconsin governor vetoes bill to ban gender-affirming care for kids

Evers: 'I will veto any bill that makes Wisconsin a less safe, less inclusive, and less welcoming place for LGBTQ people and kids'

The dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol is seen from the outside. The U.S. flag, the Wisconsin state flag, and the Pride flag fly on a pole.
A Pride flag flies in the wind Thursday, June 1, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday vetoed a bill that sought to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors.

The veto was expected from Evers, who has vowed to strike down any proposals from the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature that he deems harmful to LGBTQ+ youth.

The bill, which was passed by the Legislature in October, would have banned gender-affirming surgeries, which are rare, as well as all forms of gender-affirming care for minors in Wisconsin, including puberty blockers and hormone treatment using estrogen and testosterone.

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“This type of legislation, and the rhetoric beget by pursuing it, harms LGBTQ people and kids’ mental health, emboldens anti-LGBTQ hate and violence, and threatens the safety and dignity of LGBTQ Wisconsinites,” Evers wrote in his veto message. “I will veto any bill that makes Wisconsin a less safe, less inclusive, and less welcoming place for LGBTQ people and kids.”

Public hearings on the proposal earlier this year drew dozens of people to the state Capitol to testify in opposition.

Republican supporters of the measure suggested that the opinions of medical professionals regarding gender-affirming care could change in the future and that current treatments could be irreversible. Gender-affirming care has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.

“While the governor’s veto of this legislation is certainly not surprising, it serves as a stark reminder of just how out of touch with reality Governor Evers is,” Republican Sen. Duey Stroebel said in a statement. “Protecting children from invasive and irreversible medical interventions is the right thing to do from both a scientific and ethical standpoint.”

At least 22 states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and most of those states face lawsuits over the measures. Gender-affirming surgery for minors is rare, with fewer than 3,700 performed in the U.S. on patients ages 12 to 18 from 2016 through 2019, according to a study published in August.

The bill Evers vetoed Wednesday was one of several proposals targeting transgender people that he has vowed to reject.

Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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