Transgender bill concerns merited

A bill in the Indiana General Assembly whose authors and backers said it aimed to protect the rights of parents appears dead this session. There is nothing to mourn in its reported demise.

The legislation, House Bill 1407, actually targeted transgender kids, as far too many bills this session do. The bill would have “banned courts from removing transgender children from their parents based only on parent refusal to seek gender-affirming care or otherwise support transitions,” Indiana Capital Chronicle reported.

Trouble is, this has never happened, and it’s not the policy of any state agency to interfere with parental rights in this manner. However, those facts didn’t stop the bill from passing the House, though even some supermajority Republicans were uneasy enough to vote against the bill.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed in the Senate, where President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, tossed the bill to the Senate Rules Committee, likely killing it for the session. “Sen. Bray has serious concerns about the legislation and, citing the pending court case on the matter, doesn’t see a path forward for the bill,” spokeswoman Molly Fishell told Indiana Capital Chronicle.

The pending court case has been appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, which has not yet determined whether it will even hear the case. Even so, this entire matter perfectly illustrates the legal maxim “hard cases make bad law.”

But it’s even worse than that here. House lawmakers who boosted this bill chose to distort the facts of the case, because those facts are inconvenient to their campaign this session to vilify trans kids.

The case involves an Anderson family with a transgender daughter. “Mother Mary Cox claimed in committee this month that (the Department of Child Services) removed her child from her home, placing her with an affirming foster home, because she and her husband didn’t accept their daughter’s gender identity,” ICC reported. Yet, “DCS told the Capital Chronicle that it does not open cases solely because parents don’t support transitions.”

In the case that propelled this legislation, the parents sued DCS. The trial court ruled that the parents’ rights concerning their transgender daughter were not violated, because DCS only intervened after the parents failed to seek medical care for the child’s eating disorder. The child is no longer a minor and no longer is in the parents’ home, according to court records, which raises a legitimate question as to whether this case is moot.

The parents appealed the trial court ruling, but a unanimous Indiana Court of Appeals also ruled the parents’ rights had not been violated, and that the child’s removal had to do with her eating disorder. The appeals court didn’t mince words, either, concluding in its ruling: “Child’s continued removal from the home does not violate the Parents’ constitutional rights to the care, custody, and control of Child or to their rights to the free exercise of religion. The Parents have the right to exercise their religious beliefs, but they do not have the right to exercise them in a manner that causes physical or emotional harm to Child.”

Our lawmakers should be so wise. Credit Bray for using his power to halt a disingenuous, dangerous bill.