A father who is fighting to stop his ex-wife from subjecting his son to genital mutilation surgery says the Republican leadership in the Texas House refuses to support legislation ending the practice.
Jeff Younger has made headlines for his years-long fight to protect his 8-year-old son, James, from the scarring surgery.
“My son, starting at 2 years old, was taught that he was a girl by his mother,” Younger told attendees at a press conference in the state Capitol last month.
Since then, Younger has been involved in constant court battles to prevent James’ mother from putting him on puberty blockers, which would permanently sterilize the child and are often a precursor to full surgical transition.
Younger’s fight motivated grassroots in the Republican Party of Texas to make abolishing gender modification in minors a legislative priority for the current session.
In late 2019, State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) announced, “The first bill I file in the 87th [Legislative Session] will add ‘Transitioning of a Minor’ as child abuse.”
On November 9, 2020, House Bill 68, or the Innocence Protection Act, was filed by Toth and then referred to the House Public Health Committee on February 25. Thus far, more than a month later, it has yet to have been scheduled for a public hearing.
The committee is chaired by State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R–Fort Worth).
The Issue at Hand & Confronting House Leadership
Younger took part in a meeting between Toth and Klick about the bill last month and decided to come on the record with Texas Scorecard to express some concerns he has as a result of the conversation.
Younger indicated that the meeting was on the subject of the bill. He says Klick refused to support the bill in the meeting and she expressed concern that it would instead “set the wrong tone” in any public hearing and “trans people would be traumatized” as a result of it being heard.
Younger says he felt none of her concerns were about his son but instead about the LGBT community itself and how it would make the House of Representatives look.
Younger indicated that he made sure to tell Klick that agencies dealing with this issue are desperately looking for leadership from legislators, hoping that would be a motivating factor for her to consider the bill.
When he brought up the mechanics of the bill as he understood them, in that it would directly go after the clinics that serve young people and work to prevent permanent genital mutilation, Younger says she immediately walked away from the meeting.
“If we are willing to outlaw removal of healthy sexual organs for religious reasons, why are we allowing the removal of healthy sexual organs for ideological reasons?” Younger told Texas Scorecard, saying he left the meeting feeling frustrated.
Texas Scorecard reached out to Toth about the meeting, and he said, “We have done everything that has been asked of us, and I am expecting to get a hearing. I did not derive anything from that meeting which would make me think otherwise.”
As of publication, the bill has not been set for a public hearing. There are less than 60 days left in the 140-day legislative session.
Texas Scorecard reached out to Klick, but she was not available for comment by publication time.
Attempts to Bring the Issue Before the House of Representatives
Last Wednesday, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) offered an amendment to a bill that would have essentially added in the provisions of HB 68. The amendment was almost immediately questioned with a point of order called by State Rep. Victoria Neave (D–Dallas) citing a two-subject rule violation. The point of order was sustained by Speaker Dade Phelan.
On Thursday, Slaton offered a different amendment on the final reading of the same bill in front of the House, which was more defensive in its approach than the one offered the day before. In an emotional exchange with State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington), Slaton offered reasons as to why he continued to offer amendments that would affect the ongoing issue surrounding Mr. Younger. Once Tinderholt’s questions ceased, House Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody (D–El Paso) called a point of order citing a germaneness issue. After more than 30 minutes of deliberation, Speaker Phelan again sustained the point of order, effectively killing its consideration.
Republican Leaders Before this Legislative Session
Before the 87th Legislative Session began, many Republican leaders opined as to Mr. Younger’s case. Gov. Greg Abbott went so far as to tweet that both the attorney general’s office and the Department of Family & Protective Services were looking into the case.
State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Haslet) promised to address the issue of the use of puberty blockers, adding that he regretted not doing so in the 86th Legislative Session (2019). State Reps. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) and Cody Harris (R–Palestine) said they would support it.
At the conclusion of the last legislative session, now-Speaker Dade Phelan (R) was one of only three Republicans to receive a positive rating from the LGBT supportive organization called Equality Texas. This is an organization whose stated legislative goals include imposing statewide comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, including but not limited to employment, housing and public accommodations, implementing legal protections for individuals who conduct homosexual statutory rape, and requiring religious adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples.
Since the beginning of this legislative session, State Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mount Pleasant) filed a bill that attempts to add administering puberty blockers or forcing the transition of a child to the overall definition of abuse. Similar to Toth’s bill, it has yet to receive a public hearing while also having been referred to the House Public Health Committee. State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock) filed an identical bill in the Senate, but it has not received a hearing. It was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee, chaired by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), who is also a supporting co-author of the bill.
Krause followed through with his promise by filing a bill that would aim to prevent physicians from transitioning the sex of children. It currently has the support of 28 other Republicans who have signed on as authors, but after being referred to the Public Health Committee on March 5, it has yet to receive a public hearing.