A Virginia lawmaker wants to make sure no parent is accused of child abuse for using their own offspring’s natural pronouns.
State Delegate Dave LaRock on Thursday introduced “Sage’s Law” in response to the horrific story of a rural Virginia girl who was held in a youth center for boys from Baltimore for months because Maryland officials argued that her family home was unsafe after her 72-year old grandmother accidentally called the trans-identifying youth “she.”
The Daily Wire yesterday reported the story of how Sage was trafficked to Baltimore and found by the FBI in the hands of a convicted sex offender, only for Baltimore to take the 14-year old to jail and then order her into a group home for troubled boys. She ultimately was sex trafficked again.
Maryland held her there, despite a state agency saying the Interstate Compact on Juveniles required her return to her home state, based on the perception that her grandmother and grandfather, who had adopted her as their own child, were not sufficiently accepting of her transgender identity—though evidence of this was flimsy because her school in deep-red Virginia had concealed the fact that she was living as a boy from her parents, who found out only shortly before she was trafficked.
Sage’s Law, also called HB 2432 “Minors & students self-identifying as a gender different from biological sex; parental notification,” would require schools to inform parents if their children are transitioning gender in school; block counselors from encouraging children to keep secrets from their parents; and ensuring that laws on child abuse cannot be interpreted as including parents who don’t affirm a child’s gender transition.
The legislation puts Democrats in a tight spot because Democrat Del. Elizabeth Guzman had discussed a bill that could do just that. Guzman copped to the planned bill after The Daily Wire uncovered the boasting of a nationally-renowned school psychologist who said she was working with a lawmaker fitting Guzman’s description “on a child protection bill that would make it illegal to not affirm.”
Guzman came forward as that lawmaker, telling local news “It could be a felony, it could be a misdemeanor, but we know that CPS charge could harm your employment, could harm their education, because nowadays many people do a CPS database search before offering employment.”
She later claimed the bill would not include the word “affirm,” but in 2020, she unsuccessfully introduced a bill that would redefine the term “abused or neglected child” to include one whose parent “inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury on the basis of the child’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”
In Sage’s case, similar logic about emotional abuse formed the basis for holding her, with a lawyer writing that the child “had likely endured emotional abuse and neglect by his parents due to their failure to recognize his gender identity.”
Following outrage about Guzman’s proposal, Virginia Democrats distanced themselves from the proposal, with Minority Leader Don Scott telling the Washington Post, “She has assured me that that bill will not be introduced… If such a bill were introduced, he added, “it would be dead on arrival.”
If Democrats want to ensure that children are not separated from their parents over alleged emotional abuse—not only by future changes to the law, but by the arguments of social workers and lawyers in individual cases under current law—they could support LaRock’s bill which does just that, Laura Hanford, a parent advocate who played a role in pushing for Sage’s Law, told The Daily Wire.
“The Guzman bill shows that there’s a very real chance that kids could be taken away from their parents if they ‘misgender’ them. This is the opposite of the Guzman bill,” she said.
Scott did not immediately return The Daily Wire’s request for comment on whether Democrats will support the Republican proposal on parental rights.
A Virginia group called the Pride Liberation Project–with which the nationally-renowned school psychologist who helped craft Guzman’s proposal was also involved–offered trans youth that “In the event of you needing to leave your home, we can provide you with emergency housing from a supportive, Queer friendly adult.”
Liberals lashed out, calling it preposterous that their fellow travelers would actually take minors away from their parents and place them with other adults if a transgender youth said they didn’t feel accepted by their parents. However, that’s exactly what happened to Sage.
Hanford said that schools hiding facts about their children can place them at increased risk of sex-trafficking, as can placing kids from healthy homes into institutional living or foster homes because their loving parents are deemed to be abusers.
LaRock and Hanford announced the bill Thursday at Virginia’s state capitol alongside Sage’s mother Michele Blair and a representative from the Family Foundation and the Gavel Project, which assisted Blair in rescuing her child.
“We love our children more than any counselor, judge, or teacher. They have no business teaching any child what gender they are, and certainly no business telling them to keep secrets,” Blair said.
Blair said she was willing to call her child any pronouns, but she believes she would have realized how much was going on in her life and potentially been able to keep her out of reach of traffickers if the school—which had permitted Sage to use the boys bathroom and go by a different name—had not withheld that information from her despite talking to the parent about other issues. Sage no longer identifies as a boy.
“I hope we in the legislature can agree that no child should ever experience what [Sage] has experienced,” LaRock said.
LaRock said the law ensures that existing Virginia law saying “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child” are faithfully implemented.
“Subjective determinations about whether a family’s beliefs constitute abuse or neglect are not acceptable,” he said.
In a handout, he added: “When a child encounters a significant emotional moment in their lives, they need their parents. That moment could be the death of a friend, a trauma at school, or questions about their sexuality. Children, by their very nature, tend to catastrophize. They imaging their parents’ reaction will be the worst possible reaction. Those who say we should keep secrets from parents to avoid a reaction assume that it’s best to exclude parents altogether.”
Five Virginia Democrats offered a bill this month that would allow 16-year olds to consent to gender transition and allow doctors to hide the records from parents.
Read Sage’s shocking story here: Maryland Refused To Give Back A Virginia Runaway Because Her Parents ‘Misgendered’ Her. Then She Was Sex Trafficked, Mother Says.