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Washington legislators introduced nearly two dozen bills concerning LGBTQ+ issues this session, and the vast majority are sailing through, with only a handful dying before last week’s crucial committee deadline.
This year’s proposed legislation touches on a wide range of topics, from curricula to HIV treatment to foster care. The good news is that nearly all of them would make life better for queer folks. The other good news is that two transphobic bills, both sponsored by Republicans, are essentially dead in the water for this session.
With this year’s session at the halfway mark, let’s take a look at what’s moving forward, what stalled out in committees, and how these bills could affect (or even save) your life if they make it to Governor Inslee’s desk.
The Big One: Protecting At-Risk Youth
Of all the bills up for consideration, none has drawn more attention (and misinformation from conservatives) than Senate Bill 5599, which would make it easier for at-risk youth to access medical care.
Currently, shelters that serve unaccompanied minors are required to be in contact with the parents of those youths, unless the shelter has reason to believe that the parents will abuse or neglect the kid. As written, SB 5599 would clarify that shelters can instead contact the Department of Children, Youth and Families if there is a compelling reason to do so, and it also lays out some examples of compelling reasons.
Here’s the sticking point for conservatives: The bill specifies that one reason for shelters to contact the state instead of parents is if a minor is receiving lawful gender-affirming treatment or reproductive health services. (Gender-affirming treatment covers a wide range of practices, and includes things as simple as getting a haircut and using a gender-affirming name.)
Study after study after study (after study after study after study) has shown that gender-affirming care saves lives, particularly for young people. But, as you can imagine, conservatives don’t care for that, and they have marshaled strong opposition.
That’s dumb. We already let shelters notify the state instead of parents if they believe that the parents are a threat to the kid’s life. And we know that withholding gender-affirming care threatens the lives of people who need it. If a parent was starving their child, we wouldn’t want to send the kid back to that home. This is comparable.
The bill passed the Senate along party lines and now heads to the House, which will need to approve it or make changes and pass it back to the Senate before next month.
Also Still in Play
But that’s far from the only bill currently under consideration. There are numerous other bills bumping their way through the Legislature, many of which concern health care.
- For example, SB 5142 would tweak the complicated funding of HIV programs to allow more streamlined funding of early intervention programs to prevent transmission.
- HB 1469 would clarify that gender-affirming treatment is considered a “protected health care service” in Washington, and it would protect the privacy of people receiving such care.
- Then there’s SB 5028, introduced by Sen. Jamie Pedersen, which would make it easier for people to obtain name changes.
- From Sen. Marko Liias, SB 5462 improves the inclusivity of school curricula to include LGBTQ history.
- There's also a couple sex trafficking bills: SB 5114 establishes funding for programs that benefit victims of sex trafficking; SB 5355 establishes school curriculum regarding the prevention of sex trafficking.
All of these bills have passed out of their original chambers and are on the move. However, the above efforts are still very much works-in-progress and subject to change. It’s still possible that some may be combined, watered-down, or (if we’re lucky) bolstered. If the past is any guide, they probably won’t all make it to the finish line this year. But for now, the Legislature is in a good position to have at least a few reasons to celebrate at the end of the session.
A Little Further Behind
There are also a handful of bills that need to pass off the House or Senate floor by next Wednesday, or else they die.
- HB 1155 would clarify how private health data can be shared, including a prohibition on creating “geofences” that would track whether consumers enter certain health care facilities.
- HB 1239 would establish a complaint process for schools that are out of compliance with state laws, including laws regarding discrimination and harassment.
- HB 1151 would require coverage for fertility treatments.
There are also a few bills that did not clear committee hurdles by last week, and so they're dead. Those include:
- A pair of bills that would require hospitals to document policies regarding (among other things) gender-affirming care, HB 1263 and SB 5241.
- SB 5230, which would have established subsidies for certain young adults emerging from foster care, a group in which LGBTQ+ people are overrepresented. There’s a good chance this one will be back next year.
So there you have it. For now, a slew of smart, supportive measures are still making their way through the process, and only a small handful didn’t proceed. Overall, there's plenty of cause for optimism this session.
On any of the above-linked bills, you can click “get email notifications” to stay apprised of their progress, and also comment in favor of their passage. And in the meantime, you can thank your lucky stars that you don’t live in a state that’s wasting its time banning drag shows.