JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House on Tuesday gave initial approval to bills that would ban certain medical procedures for transgender minors and prohibit transgender athletes from competing in school sports according to their gender identity.

The legislation is similar to a pair of Senate bills that chamber approved last month.  A House committee held a public hearing on those Senate bills Tuesday night. 

The ban on gender-affirming care brought the most discussion, and two Republicans broke from their party to vote “no,” resulting in a 106-45 vote. Republican Rep. Chris Sander of Lone Jack, who is openly gay, voted “no” along with House Majority Leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, who is a doctor.

Benton Republican Rep. Jamie Burger’s bill delineating sports participation by sex as assigned at birth was approved on a 107-41 vote. Sander once again voted “no,” along with Republican Rep. Tony Lovasco of O’Fallon. Rep. Alan Gray of Florissant was the only Democrat to vote in favor of the bill on Tuesday. 

Both bills need to be approved by the House one more time before they go to the Senate. 

Rep. Brad Hudson, R-Cape Fair, said the purpose of his bill regarding transgender health care has remained consistent throughout the legislative process.

“We are trying to protect Missouri’s children from unnecessary and harmful sex change drugs and surgeries,” he said.

Hudson amended the bill during House debate on Tuesday to make it “as much like the Senate bill as possible” — though he excluded provisions he found objectionable, like a four-year sunset clause on the ban on hormone therapy that was the result of a compromise following a Democratic filibuster

The Senate bill also has a provision grandfathering in people who have already began a medical transition. Hudson said his bill should not contain a grandfather clause.

“This is just common sense,” Hudson said. “Think about smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol, gambling, consenting to sexual activity. There are a number of substances and things that we as a society agree that children should not be exposed to and involved in because they have not developed yet to the point cognitively where they can fully understand the life-altering consequences of decisions that they may be making.”

Republican representatives echoed Hudson’s sentiment that the bill was about protecting children, including Rep. Justin Sparks of Wildwood, who filed a similar bill this session.

“If I’m wrong, [transgender children] lose time [on medication],” he said. “If they’re wrong, they lose the ability to have a family forever.”

Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, said she received an anonymous letter from the parent of a transgender girl.

“One of the challenges is dealing with the sensitivity of the topic, when folks who are simply advocating for their own civil rights are too afraid to advocate for themselves for fear of retribution,” Aune said.

The child had been “increasingly withdrawn, depressed and anxious” since eighth grade and came out to parents at 16, the letter said.

“‘Being in this male body causes our child severe emotional distress referred to as gender dysphoria,’” Aune read from the letter. “‘Gender-affirming care allows children to feel more okay in the skin they were born in. The knowledge that treatment exists gives my child hope… Do not take that hope away from my child or any other child,’” Aune read.Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, says she did not anticipate discussing the bill Tuesday (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

Rep. Robert Sauls, D-Independence, said parents are pleading for the legislature not to enact the bill.

“For the kids and the parents this bill will affect, this bill is unconstitutional,” Sauls argued. “Ultimately, it will be declared unconstitutional.”

Arkansas, the first state to ban gender-affirming care for minors, faces a legal challenge to its law. That litigation has been ongoing since 2021.

Hudson’s bill includes an amendment proposed by Neosho Republican Rep. Ben Baker in committee that would also bar incarcerated Missourians from accessing gender-affirming care.

A case in Missouri, though, sets precedent that people with gender dysphoria must be able to receive gender-affirming care, even if they have not yet started treatment prior to incarceration. 

Jessica Hicklin sued to access hormones after a Missouri Department of Corrections policy broke from federal law and claimed transgender people who had not begun treatment were not able to receive it; a federal court overturned Missouri’s rule, as reported by the Associated Press.

Democrats offered a handful of amendments that were rejected for not relating to the core bill.

Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, offered an amendment called the “Missouri Declaration of the Rights of the Child.”

The amendment offered rights for minors, such as “right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” It says the best interests of the child should be institutions’ primary concern.

Rep. Dean Van Schoiack, R-Savannah, called a point of order, saying Unsicker’s amendment did not fit.

“We are all here to protect our children,” Unsicker said, arguing for her proposal.

The amendment was ruled out of order.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis,  tried to amend the bill to remove language about gender-affirming care and instead prevent children from carrying guns.

It was also rejected in a point of order.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, made a motion to postpone discussion of the bill indefinitely, alleging that the body is not ready to make a decision.

Rep. Patty Lewis, D-Kansas City, argued that the sponsors of the legislation were not present when opponents of their bills testified during the committee hearing earlier this year

Hudson said he listened to the testimony from his office as to not take up a chair in the committee hearing room from those who were there to testify. He said while the hearing was going on, he also spoke with a parent outside his office who opposed his bill.

Sander was the only Republican in favor of postponing discussion. Quade’s motion was ultimately defeated. 

“I just think that this should be debated more,” Sander said, labeling the bill a “legal mess.”

Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, said the legislation debated Tuesday doesn’t align with other GOP positions.

“Isn’t that what we’re always talking about is parental rights?” she asked. “But no, the people in this body, a lot of y’all don’t even have kids, you know best.”