Ban on transgender care passes Missouri House, setting up possible clash with Senate

House Majority Leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee's Summit, speaks in a press conference after voting against a bill seeking to ban gender-affirming care for minors (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

House Majority Leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee's Summit, speaks in a press conference after voting against a bill seeking to ban gender-affirming care for minors. | Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent

Differences between the House and Senate on how strict a ban on certain transgender health care could spell trouble for the proposal’s chances as the Missouri legislative session nears completion.

Republican leaders in both chambers told reporters on Thursday that they wanted their versions passed and sent to the governor.

The Senate passed a version last month that allows transgender minors currently receiving care to continue treatments and includes an expiration date for the ban on hormone therapy. Both provisions were included as a compromise to end a Democratic filibuster

The House version, passed Thursday, leaves the compromise language out. 

Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the House needs to pass his chamber’s version for any bill to have a chance this year. 

“We don’t get second chances on huge, huge issues like that very often,” Rowden said.

Republicans in the House, however, stand by their version of the bill without any compromise.

“I stand by what the House did,” said House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres. “We didn’t believe that there needed to be a sunset provision. And then we didn’t believe there needed to be a grandfather clause.”

Plocher said the Senate bills are still “alive” but didn’t have a timeline in mind for bringing them to the House floor. A House committee passed the Senate bill without making any changes Thursday afternoon. 

“It depends on what kind of action the Senate takes,” Plocher said.

“First,” said House Majority Leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit. “We asked the Senate to take a good look at the House proposal.”

“I have made a commitment to the Republican conference,” Patterson continued, “that if that [Senate] bill is on the calendar and we need to pass it, that we’re looking at it.”

Patterson voted against the House bill on Thursday, clarifying in the press conference that he appreciated the work behind the bill but wished the ban was less sweeping.

During Thursday’s debate, Democrats pleaded with Republicans to break from their stated positions and vote against the bill.

  Missouri House Republicans raise their hands to speak on a ban for gender-affirming care for minors as House Majority Leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, moves for a vote. | Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent

Rep. Barbara Phifer, D-St. Louis, said she has a transgender grandson who she worries won’t be able to remain in Missouri or visit her if the House bill becomes law.

Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, accused Republicans of putting politics over transgender children and their families.

Mackey left the chamber frustrated, pushing open the door while flinging his hands angrily.

A few on the other side of the aisle chuckled.

“You’re all seeing a lot of emotion right now. A lot of frustration and a lot of pain,” said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis. “I know you don’t get it.”

He said it is difficult maintaining friendships with legislators who vote counter to him on issues such as gender-affirming care.

“This is as personal as it gets and if it’s not about you and your child, you should be listening to the people it is about and not deciding that you, government, know better than them and their doctors about their complex, personal journeys,” he said.

Rep. Brad Hudson, a Republican from Cape Fair and the bill’s sponsor, said Merideth’s words were a threat.

“We have to agree with them and if we don’t, they’re going to threaten us,” he said in his closing argument for the bill. “They’re going to threaten us with lost friendships. They’re going to threaten us with the opinions of our children and our grandchildren.”

Patterson and Rep. Chris Sander, R-Lone Jack, broke from their party to vote against the bill. Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, voted “present.”

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