State Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, criticized legislation passed in the state Senate on Wednesday that he believes would provide a “troubling” excuse to withhold the whereabouts of runaway children from their parents.
According to a statement released by Braun, Senate Bill 5599, which passed on a party-line vote, would “clear the way” for children between the ages of 13 and 18 to stay at youth shelter or host homes without their parents’ knowledge for an indefinite time while seeking services related to gender dysphoria and gender transitioning. The bill would not allow teens staying in such facilities to undergo gender-affirming surgery without parental approval.
In Braun’s view, the bill would clear a path for a teenager to “game the system,” arguing a child could go to a youth shelter, claim they are seeking protected health care services even if they aren’t, and be hidden from their parents.
“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,” Braun said.
Braun argued the bill would “disenfranchise loving parents” who he believes deserve a say in the care their children receive. He went on to argue children ages 13 to 18 can already receive the same health services without parental permission under current Washington law.
“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,” Braun said. “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.”
Braun particularly criticized the bill’s applicability to children from outside of Washington state, and argued that unless there was reason to suspect parental abuse or harm, parents deserve to know their child’s whereabouts.
“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,” Braun said.
Pointing to submitted opinions from over 4,700 people on the bill when it was considered by the Senate Human Services Committee in which 98% of submissions were opposed, including parents from the LGBTQ community.
One former transgender youth testified against the bill, sharing her experience as a survivor of sexual-assault and her concern regarding the effects of the bill on vulnerable children.
“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],” she said.
SB 5599 now moves to the state House for consideration.