Bill threatening rights of parents passes Senate

Mar 1, 2023

Senate Bill 5599 removes parents from health and mental health care decision-making process

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, made the following remarks after the state Senate’s majority Democrats passed legislation that would give youth-related facilities a troubling new excuse for withholding the whereabouts of runaway children from their parents. Under Senate Bill 5599, those children could effectively disappear by simply claiming they are seeking what the bill calls “protected health services,” such as gender counseling or puberty-blocking chemicals.

The legislation, passed on a party-line vote, would not allow teens staying at licensed youth shelters or host homes to undergo “gender-affirming” surgery without parental approval. Nor would it allow other parents to hide children. But it does clear the way for children between ages 13 and 18 to stay at these facilities without their parents’ knowledge for an indefinite time while seeking services related to gender dysphoria and gender transitioning.

It also clears a path for any teenager to “game the system.” A child can run away to a youth shelter, claim they are seeking protected health care services even if they really aren’t, and be hidden from their parents. It would not be the first time a teenager would take advantage of a legal loophole to avoid general accountability.

“The sponsors of Senate Bill 5599 have said on the record that they want safe spaces where children have the freedom to express their true selves and that Washington must clear a path to ensure success for every child. I agree. Like so many other health-related situations, gender dysphoria presents unique needs that deserve attention. But this should not mean removing parents from the decision-making process.

“If it becomes law, this bill would disenfranchise loving parents who deserve to have a say in the care of their teenage children. Children between the ages of 13 and 18 can already access these same health- and mental-health services under Washington law, without their parents’ permission. The only thing SB 5599 would do is cause harm by driving a wedge between vulnerable kids and their parents, at a time when a teen lacks the perception and judgment to make critical life-altering decisions.

“A parent may not even know why the child ran away and could involve law enforcement or other groups in a desperate search – all the while going through an unnecessary emotional nightmare, imagining the worst about what might have happened. It’s also wrong how this bill would also apply to children from other states who may travel thousands of miles for services not available to them at home. Unless there is reason to suspect parental abuse or harm, parents deserve to know where their teenagers are.

“Democrats have claimed many times that the brains of minors are not fully developed until age 22. Right now, they are sponsoring a juvenile offender sentencing bill [Senate Bill 5475] based on ‘the expansive body of scientific research on brain development, which shows that adolescents’ perception, judgment, and decision-making skills differs significantly from that of adults.’ It’s revealing how brain research matters to them when juveniles break the law, but not when they seek life-altering, potentially irreversible health care.”

When SB 5599 received a hearing before the Senate Human Services Committee on Feb. 6, more than 4,700 people signed in with an opinion on the bill – and 98% were opposed, including parents from the LGBTQ community.

One former transgender youth testified against SB 5599, sharing her experience as a sexual-assault survivor and her concern about the effects of the bill on vulnerable children. She said, “In the short term, I might have felt better having medically transitioned. Despite feeling better in the short term, medical transition would have profoundly damaged me, potentially even more than the sexual assault [that caused her gender dysphoria].”

SB 5599 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. Members of the public who wish to testify on the bill, should it receive a hearing in the House, should visit how to testify on a bill on the Washington State Legislature’s website.


WATCH: Sen. John Braun’s floor speech on final passage of Senate Bill 5599