Supporters of transgender youth rally and express their opposition of House Bill 1125 at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, February 15, 2023. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

The state Senate, with a split partisan vote on Tuesday, sent a bill that bans gender-affirming procedures and drugs for Mississippians under 18 to Gov. Tate Reeves, who has indicated he will sign it into law.

House Bill 1125, the “Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures Act,” is boilerplate Republican legislation similar to measures passed or debated in other states and was authored by Rep. Gene Newman, a Republican from Pearl. It passed the Senate on a party-line vote 33-15. The measure was one of more than 30 bills Mississippi Republican lawmakers filed this election year to limit rights of LGBTQ+ people in the state.

“We love people,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Joey Fillingane, a Republican from Sumrall who handled the bill’s floor passage. “We don’t hate people. We want people to be well and healthy … But these are unnatural things taking place in our state.”

Republicans fended off an attempt by Sen. Rod Hickman, a Democrat from Macon, to amend the bill to clarify that mental health services are not prohibited. Fillingane said that is already the case with the bill. Republicans didn’t want any amendments to the measure, which would have sent it back to the House and prolonged its inevitable passage with a GOP supermajority during an election year.

Hickman and others have argued that the measure, besides further alienating a group already ill-treated in Mississippi society, would cause doctors to be leery about providing any services, such as mental health, for fear of the strong penalties in the bill. Opponents in health services have warned that Mississippi’s estimated 2,400 trans teenagers, in particular, have a four-times higher rate of suicide and that gender-affirming treatment significantly increases the chances trans youth will live to adulthood.

READ MORE: ‘Kids will kill themselves’: Providers of gender affirming care say anti-trans bill will be a direct cause of suicide

The measure will prohibit Mississippi doctors from performing gender affirming surgery or prescribing drugs such as hormone replacement therapy to those under 18. It would allow for the doctors’ licenses to be revoked and create a “civil claim of action” for them to be sued with a 30-year statute of limitations. It would prohibit insurers or Medicaid from reimbursing families for such procedures and would strip doctors who provide them of the state’s generous tort claims protections.

LGBTQ+ advocates on Tuesday decried the bill’s passage and called on Reeves to veto it.

“This bill – and an overwhelming wave of similar legislation moving quickly in states across the country – is cruelly targeting transgender youth and their doctors,” said Ivy Hill, director of gender justice for the Campaign for Southern Equality. “To every trans young person who feels attacked, marginalized, or fearful for the future: Please know that you are loved, you are supported, and there is queer community across the state and nationwide who care about you and are joining with you in solidarity.”

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.