'Constitutional crisis'? Maine bill nationalizes transgender hormones, England halts them for kids

"Sanctuary state" bill would spark "rapid tit-for-tat escalation" by red states, Republican attorneys general warn Maine. Former UK prime minister to offer bill banning puberty blockers in private gender clinics.

Published: March 12, 2024 11:17pm

Conservative elected officials sometimes accuse California of making policy choices for all Americans by dint of its population size and concomitant regulatory power. 

Now they are threatening legal action against a Golden State mini-me for legislation that would purportedly override other states' laws restricting abortion as well as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and genital surgeries for gender confusion.

Sixteen Republican attorneys general led by Tennessee's Jonathan Skrmetti asked Maine Gov. Janet Mills, AG Aaron Frey and House and Senate leaders, all Democrats, to avoid a "rapid tit-for-tat escalation" by halting LD 227 from progressing in the Legislature.

"In America, we have the right to disagree. ... But that same right applies to every State," they wrote in a letter Monday. "The totalitarian impulse to stifle dissent and oppress dissenters has no place in our shared America."

The bill gives doctors "carte blanche to put children under the knife and subject them to irreversible gender reassignment surgery against their parent's consent or knowledge" and "threatens to trigger a constitutional crisis," a press release on behalf of the AGs says.

If made law, the bill would spur a new front in U.S. litigation over so-called gender affirming care, as progressive European countries sharply restrict the treatment for minors. 

As part of its lawsuit against Missouri's pediatric ban, the ACLU subpoenaed gender clinic whistleblower Jamie Reed's communications with several groups that oppose or question evidence for the treatments, including the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine

The ACLU and Lambda Legal withdrew requests for Reed's communications with journalists after one of them posted the subpoena and criticized the ACLU publicly. Press freedom groups have stayed silent.

England's National Health Service announced Tuesday it would halt puberty blockers in its clinics, except for clinical trials, because of too little evidence supporting "safety or clinical effectiveness." Former U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss said she's introducing a bill Friday to ban blockers in private clinics.

Introduced more than a year ago as a short, vague "concept draft," LD 227's full contents were only revealed in a 21-page sponsor's amendment that was "still not readily available to the public online" at the start of a March 5 hearing, Maine Wire reported. 

The hearing record includes more than 600 written comments, overwhelmingly filed by individuals listing Maine towns but also the Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Maine Medical Association, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine Right to Life and six state lawmakers among others.

Republican state Rep. Laurel Libby got the word out March 3 in a video decrying the "sanctuary state" bill, whose language had been given to lawmakers days earlier. Maine Wire posted it the next day.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the sponsor's amendment was still not on the LD 227 page. The Republican AGs shared a nonpublic link from a committee distribution list.

It says any state that "prohibits, criminalizes, sanctions, authorizes a person to bring a civil action against or otherwise interferes with" residents or visitors who seek abortions or "gender-affirming health care services," or who "aid or assist" those seekers, violates Maine law.

The bill authorizes those seekers and helpers, to bring civil actions for damages, including punitive, and injunctions against any person, "whether or not acting under color of law, [who] files or prosecutes hostile litigation" against them. They could also recover attorney's fees.

Practitioners of abortion and gender-affirming care would be added to the state's "address confidentiality" program, currently available to "victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking, and minor victims of kidnapping."

Maine courts would be barred from cooperation with other states' courts pertaining to hostile litigation, including court orders, subpoenas and summons, as would Maine law enforcement agencies.

These are "unique constitutional transgressions" that justify the warning from Republican AGs, according to their Monday letter. Far from a simple liability shield as portrayed in the media, LD 227 threatens "law enforcement, prosecutors, and other officials in our States who are enforcing our own valid state laws" and court actions, even when upheld in federal appeals courts.

"The federal Constitution, in short, precludes Maine’s novel effort at state-sanctioned culture war litigation tourism" and "extraterritorial bullying," the Republican AGs said. 

LD 227 could spur other states to enact their own First and Second Amendment "protection" laws to create liability for out-of-state people "who seek to suppress purported hate speech ... regulate firearms" or take sides in the Israel-Hamas war, they warned. That would ensnare state officials in "legal battles in far-flung jurisdictions."

State Judiciary Committee Democrats joined Republicans in January to shoot down a much shorter shield bill limited to gender affirming care (HP 1114), warning about "interference with other states' laws," the Maine Morning Star reported then.

About 100 people showed up to speak at the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee hearing last week, "many" in opposition to the bill, the Morning Star reported. Democrats shot down a GOP attempt to send LD 227 to Judiciary for consideration.

While beneficiaries said the bill prevents the "criminalization of medical practices" and "out-of-state vigilantism," Republican lawmakers said it would "make our state a destination for child trafficking, kidnapping, and sex trafficking" and "enable reproductive coercion and crimes against pregnant women" while denying them recourse, according to Maine Wire.

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