By John Hanna and Margaret Stafford
Officials in Missouri's largest city are moving to declare it a sanctuary for people seeking or providing gender-affirming care, defying state officials who are intent on banning it for minors and restricting it for adults.
A Kansas City Council committee approved such a resolution Wednesday. The full council will now consider it Thursday. The council members acted as the Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature gave final approval to a bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors, sending it to GOP Gov. Mike Parson, who is expected to sign it into law. At least 16 other states have enacted laws restricting or banning such care for minors.
The resolution also comes as a judge considers a proposed emergency rule from Republican state Attorney General Andrew Bailey that would require adults and children to undergo more than a year of therapy and fulfill other requirements before they could receive gender-affirming treatment.
“This resolution is an entrance into a conversation and shows a commitment where trans people's presence in Kansas City is valued,” Merrique Jenson, a transgender woman and founder of Transformations KC, a nonprofit that advocates for trans women of color, told the council committee. “It would minimize the legal violence toward trans people in accessing gender-affirming care.”
The resolution, approved by the Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee after being proposed by LGTBQ advocates, says the city will not prosecute or fine any person or organization that seeks, provides, receives or helps someone receive gender-affirming care such as as puberty blockers, hormones or surgery.
It also says if the state passes a law or resolution that imposes criminal or civil punishments, fines, or professional sanctions in such cases, personnel in Missouri's largest city will make enforcing those requirements “their lowest priority.”
During the committee's debate, council members agreed that Kansas City should be welcoming, but council member Heather Hall questioned whether the issue was “a city conversation,” adding, “This is us getting out of our lane.”
Council member Melissa Robinson had questions about how being a sanctuary city would “play out” and worried about “the damage that comes back to the city” from the state.
But she backed the resolution after saying, “I do believe in good trouble, and this might just be one of those lines of good trouble.”
Kansas City's proposal is coming from a Democratic-leaning city in a state with a Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature. In Texas, the state capital of Austin declared last year that it should be considered a sanctuary for transgender youth and their families, and Harris County, home to Houston, declared it wouldn't pursue cases against parents over gender-affirming care.
California,Minnesota and Washington have declared themselves sanctuary states for gender-affirming care, as have the cities of Chicago; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and West Hollywood, California.
Republican state lawmakers across the U.S. who've attacked gender-affirming care as part of a larger effort to roll back LGBTQ+ rights have argued that they're protecting children from decisions they may later regret. But gender-affirming care for minors has been available in the U.S. for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
The resolution also says city personnel will not arrest or detain anyone sought by another jurisdiction for seeking gender-affirming care, respond to requests for information from other jurisdictions, or collect any civil penalties in such cases.
Supporters noted that Kansas City's police force is controlled by a state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners and any possible criminal charges in gender-affirming cases would be filed by the county prosecutor rather than city prosecutors — both of which could make enforcing the resolution problematic.
Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas.