February 25, 2020, a committee of the Idaho House heard public testimony about Bill 465, which would put doctors in jail FOR LIFE if they offer medically standard care for transgender youth. It is a truly awful bill that would lead to harm for Idaho’s transgender community. It will also cost the state a lot of money in lawsuits.
A large number of doctors, counselors, religious leaders, parents, allies, and transgender people testified against this bill, far outnumbering the people speaking in favor of it.
This is one of three bills being considered right now that would harmfully impact the lives of Idaho’s transgender community. They are almost verbatim to bills being floated in many other states. You can read here about how that happened.
Here is my testimony (more or less. Everyone was limited to 2 minutes for testimony, but this is all that I wanted to say), plus the testimony of other religious leaders who spoke today.
Contact your legislators, and the governor, and let them know your thoughts about these bills. (Update–the Chair of the committee has announced the bill will be ‘held in committee’, which means it won’t go to the House for a vote. Very good news!)
Like others who have testified, I could speak about how harmful this bill is. Because it is. People in this state will face real harm if you interfere in their medical care. Doctors will be punished for providing medically safe and important treatment.
But I want to instead ask why the great State of Idaho would become a pawn in a game that DC lobbyists are playing?
A national group has sent these bills across the country, putting y’all in the position of being the puppets of someone else’s agenda. Bills with the exact same language as the three anti-transgender bills we’ve seen here are being floated in many other states right now. Representative Christy Zito did not even know some of the words in her own bill, which suggests she didn’t write it herself.
When did we become a state that couldn’t think for itself? When did we become a state that had to toe the line with what DC lobbyists instructed?
Where’s our rugged individualism, and our belief that individuals can make their own best choices, without need of government interference?
Transgender people are not a threat in our state. The transgender people I know are trying to live lives of safety and are seeking to be productive members of our economy, our houses of worship, our schools, our society.
If we claim to be ‘pro-life’, why are you trying to harm the lives of actually born Idahoans, to endanger their access to medical care, and to put them at increased risk of depression and even suicide?
You cannot claim to be pro-life while working so ardently against the lives of your own constituents.
It’s interesting that this legislature is considering this bill, which doctors agree would harm the lives of your constituents, and would prevent them from obtaining life saving medical care. While, conversely, this legislature has continued to allow parents to let their children die by avoiding other medical care, for religious reasons. It appears to me that the only consistent ethic this legislature wants to hold is not pro life, but pro death.
By intentionally and willfully ignoring the vast scientific, medical, and therapeutic record about the lives and care of transgender people, these bills criminalize the very solutions to their health and flourishing. It is ignorant in the extreme and is a dangerous manifestation of rank partisanship and political power.
Please vote no on this bill.
Lives are depending on it.
Testimony of Rev. Jenny Hirst:
I am one of the pastors at Collister United Methodist Church and I’m here today to use my voice in opposition of House Bill 465.
As a faith leader in the Christian community, I’m well aware of how scriptures have been used as weapons against our LGBTQ+ community, and also how our political climate promotes language that represents fear and discrimination against anyone who is different from us. It has become way too comfortable to justify treating “the other” as less than and not deserving of the very values our country was founded upon – liberty and justice for all.
And so when people of faith or those in positions of political power seek to justify making laws to further marginalize or oppress those who are supposed to be in our care, (and using scriptures as justification – or the right to religious freedom language to set apart one person’s opportunity to experience abundant life over another person’s) I have to say….for me, it comes down to my understanding of who’s side Jesus was on. Because I do believe Jesus chose sides. I believe he chose the side of the vulnerable and of the marginalized and those society saw as the other – and those who were in power and who continued to make choices to benefit themselves? They received Jesus’ anger and rebuke.
I am asking you to use your power – your voice – your position to seek safety and inclusion for the most marginalized in our wonderful state – not to craft policies to further abandon our most vulnerable citizens and create more barriers for them as they too seek to live fulfilling and purposeful lives.
In a time when our LGBTQ+ community, particularly our youth, feel abandoned and unsafe, this proposal is particularly cruel. And here’s the thing – we don’t have to have identical beliefs related to gender or sexuality – we all have different experiences and perhaps our faith traditions weigh in and require us to believe in different ways – but to criminalize the physicians in our state who have sworn an oath to aid in the healing of all who come their way, is especially unnecessary and unthinkable.
Yesterday I attended the memorial service for yet another Idaho teen who took his life. It was a reminder to all who were there of how brief and fragile life is – and it provided space for me to reflect upon how I want every child and person to know their worth and to know they are loved.
He was 16 and was an amazing writer. One of his quotes has stuck with me: “Think twice about what you’re about to say – and enforce policies of love and kindness in our society.” I wish he were here today and for the next 70 or more years he should have been with us, to help us create and enforce policies of love and kindness.
But until the time comes when that becomes the focus of our policies and laws, I have a message to God’s beloved trans siblings of mine – you are loved.
When your gifts are refused, when your story is used to cause harm, when you wonder where you fit in, when laws or people try to erase or remove you – or tell you you aren’t supposed to exist – I want you to hear, you are not a mistake – and you are loved.
Testimony of Rev. Sara LaWall:
I am the Rev. Sara LaWall and I serve as the minister of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I am also here today on behalf of the Interfaith Equality Coalition of Idaho.
One of the guiding principles of my faith tradition is. “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” One of the ways we live out that principle is in identifying ourselves as a welcoming congregation. In our denomination this means we openly, enthusiastically welcome LGBTQ+ people, youth, and families among us and that we have done our work to fully integrate them into our worship and congregational life. Because we believe every person is worthy. Every person is beautiful. Every person belongs. Every person.
Because I believe we are all created in the image of God and God named all of creation good. So in all the ways humanity shows up in our lives, we see the beauty f God reflected back to us.
But this bill suggests otherwise. This bill strips our transgender youth of their dignity, their humanity, and their right to receive vital, necessary, supportive, appropriate medical care from a trusted expert. Care that is standard best practice.
In addition to those I serve in my community, I am also here as a concerned parent. I am the mother of a 14 year old who identifies as gender fluid; who just came out to us last fall. As a mother, more than anything, I want my child to feel supported and safe and loved for exactly who they are—who they know themselves to be.
I feel so blessed and so grateful to have a doctor who partners with us in that support, offering our youth options for their own medical care tailored to their needs. Meeting my child where they are, affirming their worth and value and instinct about their own body and identity.
Nothing about this care is criminal. NOTHING. It is the best standard of care available.
For all the importance this legislature places on parental rights, what about my rights to seek the best possible care for my child?
This bill is a slap in the face to my family, to families like mine, and to our medical community offering us the best of their skills and expertise.
The suicide rate among trans and non-binary youth in Idaho is astonishingly high. I worry about my child every day. But, I know that wrap around, personalized medical care can be life saving. I expect my government representatives to help me protect my child—our children—not put them a greater risk, make them more isolated and more marginalized.
This bill tells them they don’t matter. Please tell them otherwise and vote no.
Testimony of Rabbi Daniel Fink:
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee:
I am Daniel Fink, the rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel here in Boise. I come before you to uphold the core values of my community. I speak today because conscience and covenant demand that of me.
And I stand before you because there are numerous members of my community to whom this bill would cause grievous harm. I do not speak for them, because there is no “them.” There is only us—gay and bi and straight, non-binary and queer, cis-gendered, and, yes, trans—young and old—all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of the Holy One who demands justice and compassion for all of Her children.
This legislature often rejects outside interference in our state’s affairs. You constantly bemoan federal mandates. And yet this bill would impose the pseudo-scientific views of a tiny bunch of healthcare folks over the tens of thousands of doctors and nurses who recognize that this is a question best left to families. We Jews have a one-word description for the misguided thinking that might lead you, as a legislative body, to believe you know more than the overwhelming majority of health care providers, and to impose your opinion on individuals and families that are not your own. That word is chutzpah—sheer arrogance. This bill champions bad science and even worse morality.
Almost two thousand years ago, the Talmud recognized that gender is not binary—that there is more to life than male and female, and that who we are need not be determined by our bodies at birth. Talmud speaks of up to six different categories of gender, and that is just a beginning.
Which is to say, we are all becoming, growing, changing. How we grow and change should be left to each of us, young and old, in consultation with God and/or conscience, and the medical practitioners of our choice.
I urge you to demonstrate some humility and recognize that the state of Idaho does not know better than its citizens. Reject this bill.