by Kelan Lyons, NC Newsline
Members of the House passed a bill Wednesday evening that would prohibit gender-affirming surgery for minors in North Carolina.
On a fast track to passage, House Bill 808 cleared the House Committee on Health on Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon legislators in the House Rules Committee advanced the bill to the House, where it passed by a vote of 74-44.
Republicans said the surgeries would still be available to young people once they turned 18, framing the measure as protecting them from making a decision they could later regret.
Rep. Ken Fontenot (R-Wilson) said transgender children were members of a vulnerable population being sold a “bill of goods,” referring to gender-affirming surgery, which he called “experimental” and compared to the Tuskegee experiments and eugenics.
“What we are doing is putting our children at risk,” he said. “To simplify this to, ‘It’s just a procedure,’ is to do grave injustice.” Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham) speaks to the harms and bigotry of HB 808, Rep. Ken Fontenot (R-Wilson) supports the bill. (Photo: NCGA video feed)
Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) objected to Fontenot’s comparison of gender-affirming surgery for trans youth to the forced sterilization of Black women in North Carolina in the 1960s.
“Well I’ve heard some stuff on this floor, but that’s about the most hateful and ignorant rhetoric perhaps ever spewed on this floor, in the last seven years,” Butler said.
House Speaker Tim Moore jumped in, admonishing her for demeaning her colleague. He told her to not impugn Fontenot’s character.
“Yes, sir. And if it would be uniformly applied, that would be appreciated,” Butler said.
Rep. Kristin Baker, M.D. (R-Cabarrus) said the bill protects children while they are discovering their identity.
“It’s a process. It’s complicated. It takes a lot of time and work. And so regardless of what we’re talking about, I would ask you, what is the advantage of interrupting that process?” she asked. “Step away from this particular issue and ask yourself, would I like to take away the opportunity for an adolescent to complete that entire journey?”
Democrats warned that the bill would harm, not help, children. Rep. Maria Cervania (D-Wake) pointed to research showing that many North Carolina teenagers have considered suicide, especially young people who are transgender.
“They’re asking for help. They’re not asking for us to not support them. And we’re not taking them seriously,” Cervania said. “I urge all of you to open your hearts and minds, that there are different people in the world that may be not like you or gone through your same path, but we’re affecting them. And know that these children are in need of help and our support.”
Rep. Vernetta Alston (D-Durham) said the bill was mostly about bigotry, not about protecting children.
“This again has nothing to do with protecting anybody. This is about scoring political points at the expense of personal freedom and the reputation of our state,” Alston said. ” I think this bill is scaring people, including our children and I urge you to vote no.”
At that, onlookers in the gallery cheered. Moore rebuked them for their applause.
“If you have any more outbursts than that, you will be asked to leave the gallery,” Moore said. “And I don’t care which side of the issue anyone’s on. That goes for anyone. We have rules in the House, rules of decorum. We don’t have applause. We don’t have those reactions on this bill or any other bill. If it happens again, you’ll be removed from the building.”
The bill next goes to the Senate.
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