RALEIGH, NC –
A Republican majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to override the Democratic governor's veto on a law banning gender-affirming treatment for transgender minors, putting those youth one vote away from having access to that care to lose.
The vote followed just minutes from an earlier chamber vote that overturned Gov. Roy Cooper's veto on another bill banning transgender girls from participating in girls' sports teams from middle and high school through college.
Representatives in the House of Representatives voted 73 to 46 to overturn Cooper's veto on the bill that would ban health professionals – with few exceptions – from offering hormone therapy, anti-puberty drugs and sex reassignment surgery to anyone under the age of 18. Minors who have already started treatment August 1 could continue to receive this care with parental consent if their doctors deem it medically necessary.
Democratic Rep. John Autry of Mecklenburg County, who has a transgender grandchild, choked while debating gender-affirming care legislation in the House of Representatives. “Just stop it,” he begged his fellow Republicans just before they voted to pass the bill.
The House of Representatives vote put North Carolina one vote away from becoming the last state to ban gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. The Senate was also expected to vote on both measures later Wednesday to pass the Cooper Vetoes Act.
But the Senate's first action late Wednesday afternoon concerned another veto override offer. By a vote of 27 to 18, the Senate completed the first half of an override vote on a bill that would require public school teachers, in most cases, to warn parents before calling a student by a different name or pronoun. It would also ban teaching about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms, something critics have likened to the Florida law that opponents call “Don't Say Gay.” The Senate promptly sent the bill to the House of Representatives for a final vote Wednesday night.
The Senate has a similarly veto-proof GOP majority as the House of Representatives. If Senate Republicans succeed as expected, they would make North Carolina the 22nd state to enact legislation restricting or prohibiting gender-specific medical care for transgender minors. Many of these laws face court challenges, and proponents have promised similar challenges in North Carolina.
Gender-affirming care is considered safe and medically necessary by the leading professional health care organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Endocrine Society. While transgender minors very rarely receive surgical procedures, they are often prescribed medication to delay puberty and sometimes start taking hormones before they reach adulthood.
Parents of transgender and non-binary children, like Orange County's Elizabeth Waugh, said they had considered moving their families away from North Carolina so their children could have full access to gender-based childcare.
Waugh's non-binary child did not receive treatment until August 1 and would have to travel elsewhere if she decided to start taking hormones.
“I've had a lump in my throat for months,” Waugh said Wednesday ahead of the House vote. “Just talking to other families who are struggling with this, I mean, the pain they're feeling, the suffering, the fear for their children — that's devastating.”
Local supporters of LGBTQ2S+ rights had braced themselves for the override votes expected in the House and Senate on Wednesday. They said they expected both bills to go into effect and vowed to challenge them in court.
The first overrule vote in the House of Representatives came Wednesday over Cooper's veto of a bill that would ban transgender girls from playing on middle, high and high school girls' sports teams. The House of Representatives overruled the veto by a vote of 74 to 45.
A former Olympic swimmer, Rep. Marcia Morey, spoke in the House debate about the impact of this bill on young athletes.
“This bill affects 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds who are just beginning to learn about athletics, competition and sportsmanship,” said Morey, a Durham County Democrat. “For some of these kids, it could be the lifeline of their confidence.”
Critics said restrictions on transgender girls' participation in sports were discriminatory, calling it a measure disguised as a safety measure that would unfairly disadvantage a small number of students.
However, proponents of the bill, such as Payton McNabb, a recent Murphy high school graduate, argued that legislation was needed to protect the safety and welfare of young female athletes and to provide them with scholarship opportunities.
“Vetoing this bill was not just a veto on women's rights, it was a slap in the face to every woman in the state,” said McNabb, who says she suffered a concussion and neck injury last year after a transgender Athlete hit her in the head with a volleyball during a school game.
The GOP has veto-proof majorities in both chambers for the first time since 2018, giving Republicans a clear path to consider certain LGBTQ2S+ restrictions that previously failed to find favor in North Carolina.
Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover topics.