Washington Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law on Tuesday that stipulates shelters are not required to contact parents if a runaway child is seeking an abortion or transgender procedures.
The legislation adds abortion and transgender surgeries as “compelling reasons” for licensed shelters and host homes not to notify parents if a runaway child is seeking such procedures. Instead, the shelters and facilities can inform the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
“Therefore, the legislature intends to remove barriers to accessing temporary, licensed shelter accommodations for youth seeking certain protected health care services,” the law says.
“With this bill, Washington leads the way by taking a more compassionate, developmentally appropriate, and reasoned approach to support these youth as they access gender-affirming treatment and reproductive health care services,” Inslee said when signing the bill.
The measure was widely criticized by Republicans and other Washington residents who say it will deride parental rights.
“The extremists have picked their position against WA families and parental rights. Now they can try to defend it. Spoiler: It’s indefensible,” said Republican Rep. Jim Walsh.
Washington Senate Republicans said the bill would allow shelters to “hide” children from their parents.
“People are overwhelmingly against SB 5599, including many LGBT+ folks. Democrats pass it anyway, allowing youth shelters to hide kids seeking ‘gender-affirming care’ from their parents,” the caucus said on May 5.
Other “compelling reasons” to withhold information from parents under the new law include cases of suspected physical or sexual abuse.
The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Marko Liias, a Democrat who represents an area just north of Seattle and is co-chair of the LGBTQ caucus. “Every child – including our trans youth – deserves to be safe at home. In a perfect world, that is the case, but unfortunately, that is not the reality,” Liias said in a press release. “This legislation affirms our commitment to ensuring children have a safe and stable place to go when they are not welcome at home.”
The legislation easily made it through the Democrat-controlled legislature, passing the Senate 29-20 and the House 57-39.
The law represents the growing gap between red and blue states, as Republican-led states move to ban life-altering trans procedures on minors while Democrat-led states push to enshrine access to such procedures into law.