April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
January 19, 2024
As attempts to limit or ban gender-affirming care for transgender children continue to be pushed across the country, one Nevada state senator is vowing to revisit his vetoed bill that could have offered protections for transgender patients and their providers.
Senate Bill 302 would have prohibited health care licensing boards from disqualifying or disciplining a provider for offering gender-affirming care. It also would have prohibited the governor from surrendering a person charged with a criminal violation in another state for receiving gender-affirming services in Nevada.
Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed the bill.
State Sen. James Ohrenschall (D-Las Vegas) said he brought the bill to the 2023 Legislature after hearing about the issue from Rob Phoenix, an advanced practice registered nurse who operated the largest LGBTQ+-centered medical clinic in Southern Nevada.
Ohrenschall, who is not up for reelection this year, told members of the Interim Committee on Commerce and Labor he has already submitted a bill draft request for the 2025 Legislative Session based on 2023’s SB 302. Ohrenschall hopes to work with the Lombardo administration to find a version of the bill the governor is willing to sign into law.
“I still believe this is very important in terms of protecting our citizens, protecting our health care providers,” he added.
Eleven states have passed similar shield laws and three others offer protections through executive orders, according to Ohrenschall.
Washington is one of the 11 states with a gender-affirming care shield law.
Seattle Children’s Hospital last month sued the Texas Attorney General’s Office after it demanded in a subpoena the release of records of any Texas patients who had received gender-affirming care, something the hospital argues violates their new shield law and well as federal privacy laws like HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
The Texas AG’s request came after the state’s Republican lawmakers and governor passed a bill banning trans youth from receiving gender-affirming care and allowing for the revocation of licenses for health care providers who offer gender-affirming care. Similar efforts are currently underfoot in South Carolina and Missouri.
André Wade, executive director of Silver State Equality, told lawmakers that advocates across the country are concerned other health care providers — especially those offering telehealth services — might be similarly subpoenaed or targeted by those looking to restrict health care for trans minors.
Wade said he spoke to a Nevada doctor with several patients who came from states with prohibitions on gender-affirming care. The doctor told Wade they have had “to carefully consider how to navigate” care for those patients.
“Anecdotally, we are concerned that in terms of the health care workforce more doctors and residents may choose to practice in states with shield laws because of the extra protections it offers should they choose to specialize in working with trans folks,” added Wade.
There is “an unfortunate need” for shield laws on gender-affirming care, said Ohrenschall. “I don’t think any patient or any health care provider who is seeking health care that is legal in that state should have to have this fear that another state may try to prosecute them, might try to take their medical license, might try to sue them civilly for actions in another state.”
In his brief veto message for SB 302, Lombardo wrote he could not support the bill because it “inhibits the executive branch’s ability to be certain that all gender-affirming care related to minors comports with state law” and “decreases the executive branch’s authority to ensure the highest public health and child safety standards for Nevadans.”
The bill passed the Legislature strictly on party lines.
While Lombardo vetoed SB302 last year, he did sign into law two other pieces of legislation praised by advocates of transgender rights. One prevents insurance companies from discriminating against trans people on the basis of gender identity. The other requires prisons to develop regulations to ensure safety of incarcerated trans and nonbinary people.
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