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Maine Could Become 15th State to Pass Transgender Refuge Law

State lawmakers may soon pass a bill that would make Maine a safe haven for trans people fleeing hostile states.

Protesters hold signs during a rally for transgender rights at city hall in Portland, Maine, on March 1, 2017.

On Wednesday, January 15, Maine scheduled a working session on a bill titled “An Act to Safeguard Gender-affirming Healthcare,” a bill that would declare the state a refuge for transgender people fleeing hostile states. In the past two years, similar measures have been enacted or issued through executive orders in 14 states and the District of Columbia. These laws have proven effective; for example, Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington was shielded from a subpoena that would have required them to share patient information across state borders due to legislation passed there. In response, major anti-trans Republican accounts such as Libs of TikTok and Riley Gaines attacked the bill on social media, erroneously claiming it would require the state to “take custody” of trans youth being denied gender affirming care.

The bill modifies several aspects of state to protect transgender individuals within Maine’s borders. One section would prevent states from issuing search warrants or demanding the extradition of transgender individuals who have received gender-affirming care. This is especially important considering attempts by some state attorneys general to investigate parents of transgender youth, including across state lines. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton infamously dispatched agents to interrogate transgender children statewide. The Maine bill aims to ensure that transgender individuals and their families, who seek safety and medical care in the state, are not compelled to return to their home states by extremist attorneys general, possibly under the threat of arrest. It would also make arresting the parents of trans youth pursuant to out of state warrants the “lowest law enforcement priority.”

You can see this section here:

Another provision would protect abandoned or abused transgender kids, giving the state temporary emergency jurisdiction over the child if the child is within Maine’s borders and has been unable to get gender affirming medical or mental healthcare. Importantly, this provision does not not imply, as some conservative accounts have proclaimed, that the state will “take away trans kids from non-affirming parents.” Rather, this provision merely gives judges temporary jurisdiction over a kid present in the state. The state would still have to prove to a judge that a transgender teen is at risk of abuse or neglect if returned to their family in the exact same way the state would have to prove similar things about a cisgender kid.

This provision is particularly relevant given the efforts of some Republican-led states to extend their jurisdiction over minors no longer residing within their borders. For instance, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a subpoena for medical records from Seattle Children’s Hospital. In the subpoena, the state demands data on all trans youth that have either temporarily left Texas to get care or permanently moved from the state. Such attempts to employ long-arm statutes could potentially usurp the jurisdiction of other states over those who have established residency or sought asylum within these states.

Additionally, the bill would grant Maine jurisdiction in custody disputes where one parent resides in a state that prohibits gender-affirming care, and the other lives in Maine, where such care is not banned. Considering that many custody cases involve cross-state provision of care and the transfer of transgender youth between states with and without bans, this clause enables parents in Maine to present their case to a judge and argue that gender-affirming care is in the child’s best interest. The bill does not require the judge to rule in favor of the parent; it merely allows the court to consider the argument.

The last provision of the bill would ban healthcare providers, practitioners, facilities, and similar institutions from disclosing protected healthcare information about their patients to out of state investigators.

In response to the bill, several right-wing anti-trans accounts issued viral calls to action, erroneously calling the bill a “child trafficking bill.” The account “Courage Is A Habit” spread a misleading graphic claiming that parents will be denied custody of their children and that it would “negatively impact parental rights.” Libs of TikTok claimed that Maine would “take custody of your kids” if parents did not give them “sex change surgery.” Anti-trans swimmer Riley Gaines shared a list of email addresses to legislators on the committee, urging her followers to message them, and further meetings on the bill have been pushed to January 25th.

Should Maine pass this law, it would join 14 other states and the District Of Columbia in establishing the state as a refuge for transgender people fleeing unsafe states. You can see a map of other refuge states here:

This piece was republished with permission from Erin In The Morning.

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