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'None of your business': Parents push back on Arizona bills targeting transgender youth

Several bills are moving quickly through the Legislature as part of nationwide Republican activism

PHOENIX — Arizona's transgender youth have become a target at the state Capitol this year. 

Several bills putting limits on their freedom are moving quickly at the Legislature. 

Parents and transgender advocates are pushing back.

"Why does it matter? Why, why does it matter to you? ... I don't get it," Tami Staas, executive director of the Arizona Trans Youth and Parent Organization, said of Republican lawmakers supporting the bills.

"Dear Legislature, this is none of your business."

Staas is also a Mesa schoolteacher whose 23-year-old son came out to her as transgender 11 years ago.

Three pieces of legislation were scheduled to be heard Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • Under the umbrella of "parental rights," HB 2161 would bar school districts and charter school employees from "withholding or concealing information from or facilitating, encouraging or coercing students to withhold or conceal information from the student's parents about the student's physical, emotional or mental health."

RELATED: Arizona bill bans gender reassignment surgery for minors

A student's discussions with a teacher about gender identity or pregnancy could be considered information about the student's health. Schools that fail to comply could be sued.

"A teenager doesn't always know how a parent's going to react," House Education Committee Chair Michelle Udall, a Mesa Republican, said during a hearing on the bill in January.

"By not telling the parent, we're not giving the parent the chance to support them."

Udall, a candidate for Arizona school superintendent, supported the bill.

The bill was passed by the House and was to have been heard Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. A committee member's absence resulted in the bill being held.

These bills are scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee:

  • SB 1165 would ban transgender girls from competing on a school's sports teams for girls. 
  • SB 1138 would "prohibit physicians from performing irreversible gender reassignment surgeries on minors."

All three bills are two votes away -- by a committee, then the full House or Senate -- from reaching the governor's desk for his signature into law.

The Arizona legislation is part of a nationwide wave of Republican bills and actions targeting young people who are transgender.

In perhaps the most notorious example, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state's child protection agency to treat gender-affirming medical care as child abuse.

"Parents are scared," Staas said. "They see what's happening in Texas, and they fear that's going to happen here."

RELATED: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says state may investigate gender modification as child abuse

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