Gordon Signs Wyoming Ban On Gender Changes For Kids, But Calls It Intrusive

Although he feels it’s intrusive into the “personal affairs of families,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday signed a bill that bans gender-change treatments for children.

Clair McFarland

March 22, 20245 min read

Gov. Mark Gordon, right, addresses the 2024 session of the Wyoming Legislature at the state Capitol in Cheyenne.
Gov. Mark Gordon, right, addresses the 2024 session of the Wyoming Legislature at the state Capitol in Cheyenne. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Wyoming’s governor signed into law Friday a ban on gender-change treatments for minors.

Gov. Mark Gordon’s signature codifies Senate File 99, Children Gender Change Prohibition, to take effect July 1. It will ban the use of surgeries, cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers on kids for gender-change purposes.

But Gordon didn’t give his wholehearted support to the bill, despite his signature.

“I signed SF 99 because I support the protections this bill includes for children; however, it is my belief that the government is straying into the personal affairs of families,” said Gordon. “Our Legislature needs to sort out its intentions with regard to parental rights. While it inserts governmental prerogative in some places, it affirms parental rights in others.”

The Wyoming Legislature’s recently concluded session teemed with discussions around parental rights, especially pertaining to parents’ retaining moral and social control and transparency with regard to their children while their children at public schools.

One such bill, House Bill 92, would require schools to communicate with parents about their students in a way that protects parental rights. It also would establish that parents’ federally recognized rights to raise their children comes to bear on Wyoming schools’ maneuvers and policies.

Gordon allowed HB 92 to go into law without his signature, a statement of disapproval but not the outright rejection a veto would have expressed.

Another bill Gordon allowed to go into law without signature is Senate File 9, which would ban schools from teaching sexual orientation or gender identity without prior permission, and would compel schools to notify parents if their children experienced psychological changes, which could include a newly-voiced transgender identity.

Too Complicated

Gordon vetoed House Bill 148, an attempt to regulate surgical abortion clinics by requiring them to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.

Gordon, who has signed anti-abortion legislation before and touted a pro-life stance, said Friday that he vetoed HB 148 because it had complicating amendments and was therefore vulnerable to legal challenges.

Wyoming is defending two abortion bans passed last year – one outlawing nearly all abortions and one banning the transfer of chemical abortion drugs to cause abortions.

The case is ongoing. One of its major questions is whether the Wyoming Constitution’s promise of health care autonomy enshrines a right to abortion.

Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens sent multiple constitutional questions on the case to the Wyoming Supreme Court this month.

“It is my opinion that HB 148, as amended, had the potential to further delay the resolution of this critical issue for the unborn,” Gordon said. “The potential of starting over on a new course of legal arguments would in my mind be derelict, and would have only sacrificed additional unborn lives in Wyoming.”

In an attached letter to Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray, Gordon said he was “disappointed” that Rep. Martha Lawley’s original bill was amended in ways that misalign it with the two abortion bans Wyoming is already defending in court.

The House adopted an amendment pronouncing an “intent of the Legislature” that HB 148 should not recognize or define abortion as health care, should not hold abortion as lawful pending the court’s decision, and should not create an abortion right.

The House also added an amendment requiring ultrasounds at least 48 hours before a pregnant woman can have an abortion.

A Safe Haven

Lastly in his Friday statement, Gordon noted that he signed House Bill 90, expanding the timeframe for desperate parents or others to leave newborns at safe havens without penalties. From the safe havens, the newborns are to be taken into state custody and later, into new families.

A Joust

The sponsor of the law banning child gender-change treatments, Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, told Cowboy State daily the law curbs an "awful stain on America" and a political movement to "(cut) perfectly healthy body parts off children. And just as heinous, for adults to convince children to do it to themselves."

He said he is proud of his work to pass SF 99.

"It’s our duty to ensure that children make it to adulthood without being victims of the trans cult," he said, adding, "I hope protections like this continue to spread across America like a wildfire."

Bouchard said he wished Gordon had not rebuked the law as intruding upon family life, and called the comment "virtue signaling."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming, conversely, said the law represents vast government overreach and undermines parents' fundamental rights, and transgender kids' right to equal protection.

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Gordon has put the government in charge of making vital decisions traditionally reserved for parents in Wyoming. This ban won’t stop Wyomingites from being trans, but it will deny them critical support that helps struggling transgender youth grow up to become thriving transgender adults," said Libby Skarin, acting executive director for the group, in a Friday statement. "But this fight is far from over — we are determined to build a future where Wyoming is a safe place to raise every child. As our politicians continue to fail trans youth, it is up to each and every one of us to rise against their fear and ignorance and surround these young people with strength, safety and love." 

Correction - An earlier version of this story said SF 9 includes exceptions for potential abuse, but in fact it merely states its non-interference with abuse reporting requirements.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter