North Carolina's legislative building. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Even though we’re only five months into 2021, the United States has released a torrent of anti-transgender house and senate bills across the United States.

Three such bills in North Carolina are Senate Bill 514, the “Youth Health Protection Act,” House Bill 358, the “Save Women’s Sports Act” and Senate Bill 515, the “Health Care Heroes Conscience Protection Act.”

Of the three, the very inappropriately named “Youth Health Protection Act,” (SB 514) as of April 20, is off the table. Republican Senate leader Phil Berger indicated the party will not attempt to move Senate Bill 514 forward. “We do not see a pathway to Senate Bill 514 becoming law,” said Pat Ryan, a spokesman for GOP Senate leader Phil Berger. “The bill will not be voted on the Senate floor.”

The bill, which was created to prohibit physicians from offering gender-affirming healthcare to children and any individuals under 21, included the loss of access to therapy, surgery, hormones and more. Proposed by by Senators Ralph Hise (District 47), Warren Daniel (District 46), and Norman Sanderson (District 3), Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was expected to veto it, which led to the lack of support from Berger.

 HB 358 (Save Women’s Sports) is the most infamous of the three laws and states the following:

“All athletic teams for middle and secondary school students participating in interscholastic or intramural athletic activities conducted by a public school unit shall be expressly designated as one of the following based on biological sex: (1) Males, men, or boys (2) Females, women, or girls (3) Co-ed or mixed.”

Sponsored by Representatives Mark Brody (District 55), Patricia McElraft (District 13), Diane Wheatley (District 43), and Jimmy Dixon (District 4), this bill was introduced on March 22 and has already attracted clearly justifiable negative national media focus on North Carolina.

The “Save Women’s Sports Act” does not specifically dictate what teams would be available to transgender individuals, however, the words “co-ed or mixed” leave a clear-cut path for transgender students who want to be involved in sports activities. Whether that was an unintentional consequence or an intentional attempt at tossing a bone to centrist congressional representatives is not known. Regardless, the likelihood of any school creating all co-ed sports teams seems improbable.

The only bill that explicitly mentions religion, SB 515 (sponsored by the same creators of the now defunct 514), makes the claim that health care professionals may refuse service to transgender individuals on the basis of several personal opinions using the following sentence:

“Whether such conscience is informed by religious, moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs or principles.”

That statement, combined with the words from the bill below, would allow doctors, nurses and even psychiatrists to turn away LGBTQ patients, and potentially anyone targeted for discrimination based on personal prejudices and “teachings” in any book of religion, without fear of repercussions.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to discriminate against any medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer that refuses to participate in or pay for a health care service on the basis of conscience under this Article.”

If any of the two remaining active bills pass, their strongest and most immediate impact will dictate transgender youth’s transitions, legal action, and education. Transgender students will be unable to play on gender-affirming sports teams, unable to receive gender-affirming medical treatments, and prevented from taking legal action against health care professionals who refuse to treat them. Considering transgender minors and their legal guardians have the autonomy to decide the best course of action, the legislation seems superfluous.

It remains unclear if Cooper’s veto could withstand a congressional override on these two, though the probability that any will ever become law, especially when considering the potential damage that could be done to the state and Cooper’s veto strength, is debatable.

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