Michigan Representative Thomas Hooker last week introduced a bill that would ban gender reassignment surgery for prisoners, and possibly all gender reassignment surgeries funded through tax payer assistance programs.
Last Wednesday, in a move that largely went unnoticed, Rep. Hooker sent out a statement under the banner of ‘Moral Values Bill Introduced in the House’ saying that he had introduced a bill that would prevent tax-payer money being used for gender reassignment surgery.
“State dollars come from taxpayers and they are a limited resource right now,” said Hooker, R-Byron Center. “Paying for a prisoner’s sex change is not something people want done with their money.”
The issue is one that the American Family Association has listed among its legislative goals for the current session.
House Bill 4889 has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
Currently, Michigan law allows for gender reassignment procedures for prisoners where there is a pressing need for reassignment surgery in accordance with the diagnosis and treatment of Gender Identity Disorder.
Hooker has admitted he knows of no instance in the state where this law has actually been used but argues that it is enough that there is potential for it to happen to warrant action, saying in a recent interview: “It’s something that’s kind of a common sense thing. I’d much rather be proactive than reactive. It’s definitely something we want to prevent.”
Equality Michigan, as quoted by The Michigan Messenger, has hit back saying this is an example of Hooker pandering to Gary Glenn, the head of the anti-LGBT American Family Association of Michigan:
Representative Hooker’s bill is ill-conceived and is yet another attack on the gay and transgender population of Michigan by this Legislature. To the best of my knowledge, only one other state — Wisconsin — has ever passed such a bill and the federal courts struck it down as unconstitutional. Lawmakers should not be in the business of legislating medical care and should not be substituting its judgment for that of the medical profession in such matters. For Representative Hooker to dance to the tune played by Mr. Glenn, the head of an organization labeled as a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center is the very antithesis of the “common-sense” he purports to be exercising. I extend an offer to Mr. Hooker to meet with me and discuss this issue in greater detail.”
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a lower court ruling striking down a Wisconsin law that banned tax-payer funded gender reassignment-related treatment for transgender prisoners. In the court ruling the judge said: “had the Wisconsin legislature passed a law that DOC inmates with cancer must be treated only with therapy and pain killers, this court would have no trouble concluding that the law was unconstitutional. Refusing to provide effective treatment for a serious medical condition serves no valid penological purpose and amounts to torture.” You can read more on that here.
Others have slammed Representative Hooker for introducing this legislation at a time when the state needs to focus on job creation.
There are also concerns reportedly expressed by Jay Kaplan, the staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, that the language of the bill could ban gender reassignment surgery through other public assistance programs because the legislation does not specifically state how the new provision should be applied. This would be a blow to Michigan’s trans population who, like all trans people throughout the U.S., continue to suffer disproportionate levels of poverty and joblessness.