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In Response to MO’s Attack on Trans People, Kansas City May Become a Safe Haven

Trans advocates say that the safe haven designation is needed to combat the state’s attacks on LGBTQ people.

A marcher carries a transgender pride flag during a march in Kansas City, Missouri.

City officials in Kansas City, Missouri, are considering designating the city a sanctuary for transgender people seeking gender-affirming care in response to the state’s attorney general, Andrew Bailey, instituting some of the most extreme anti-trans policies in the country.

In April, Bailey instituted an emergency rule that effectively banned access to gender-affirming health care for transgender adults. In reaction to the rule, which was set to go into effect in late April, some medical providers immediately sent emails to their clients, refusing to fill prescriptions in fear of being in conflict with the law.

Several advocacy groups sued to prevent the regulations from going into effect, alleging that the restrictions went well beyond Bailey’s power to regulate consumer protection matters. A St. Louis County judge, Ellen Ribaudo, has granted a temporary restraining order, barring enforcement of the rule as the lawsuit progresses.

“This is a novel use of the attorney general’s power to promulgate emergency rules under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act that has never previously been subjected to judicial scrutiny and may impermissibly invade a function reserved to the legislature,” Ribaudo wrote.

If the Kansas City Council passes the sanctuary resolution, transgender people would be able to legally and safely access gender-affirming care in the city, regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome. If the state passes a law or resolution that imposes civil or criminal punishments for providing transgender people with lifesaving health care, Kansas City will make enforcing those measures “their lowest priority.”

“We don’t know if these state laws are going to be signed, if the attorney general’s order is going to be approved,” said Justice Horn, chair of the LGBTQ Commission. “We didn’t want [the state] to come after us, we want to be proactive and do what we can to protect the community. The basic message is that folks need to know we are going to do everything we can to ensure they have access to care.”

In addition to targeting transgender adults, Missouri is also one of at least 14 states that have passed laws or enacted policies that restrict access to gender-affirming care for trans youth. According to a 2023 national mental health survey conducted by The Trevor Project, anti-LGBTQ policies like these are responsible for the poor mental health of one in three LGBTQ young people .

Missouri has increasingly targeted LGBTQ people in recent years, with state lawmakers introducing an astonishing number of anti-LGBTQ bills this session. The Kansas City sanctuary resolution is an attempt to combat the mental health crisis LGBTQ kids are experiencing in the face of these legislative attacks.

“There comes a time when you have to speak up and say to our LGTBQ residents, especially children, who are wondering if their city and state are accepting of them, we have to stand up right now and say, ‘Yes, you are welcome in Kansas City, we will protect you,” said Council member Andrea Bough, who co-sponsored the resolution with Mayor Quinton Lucas and councilman Eric Bunch.

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