AUGUSTA — Both houses of the Maine Legislature have now voted in favor of a bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to receive gender-affirming hormone therapy without parental consent under certain conditions.

The Maine Senate voted 20-14 Tuesday, while the House of Representatives voted 73-60 in favor of the bill Monday. The bill requires final enactment votes in both chambers before being considered by Gov. Janet Mills.

Under the bill sponsored by Rep. Erin Sheehan, D-Biddeford, teens at least 16 years old would be eligible to receive gender-affirming hormone therapy – not gender reassignment surgery – without parental consent if they are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the condition where someone’s expressed gender identity is different from the gender assigned at birth for a sustained period of time.

Patients would be eligible for care without parental consent if they have received counseling by a licensed medical professional, are experiencing harm because they are not receiving the therapy and are not supported in their transition by a parent or guardian.

The bill is among a handful of Democratic proposals designed to protect access to gender-affirming care in Maine. Such care is under attack from Republicans in other parts of the country who want to ban the practice and argue it is tantamount to child abuse or neglect.

Maine 16- and 17-year-olds already have access to a number of other health care services without parental consent, including mental health counseling, addiction treatment and testing for sexually transmitted infections. They can also access abortions with the written consent of a physician, licensed counselor or judge.


Sen. Mike Tipping, D-Orono, a lead co-sponsor of the bill, urged his peers Tuesday to consider the potentially fatal mental anguish linked to gender dysphoria, specifically for young people. He argued that the pending legislation could save lives.

“All of us were 16 at one point,” Tipping said. “I want us all to think back to that moment … and imagine ourselves going through the wrong puberty that was opposite our gender and imagine the torture that would be.”

The bill’s opponents cited their concerns about parents’ rights, arguing that the care of a minor should be a family matter. Many decried the bill as a medical and legislative overstep.

Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Androscoggin, sees the growing discourse around trans rights as having sparked a “secondary social contagion among young people” wherein gender-affirming therapies are “improperly” administered to teens who do not require it. He expressed concern about what he and many of his peers see as the irreversible effects of gender-affirming care.

Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, said that gender-affirming procedures and therapies render trans youth “broken beings” and that counseling, rather than hormonal treatment, is the correct approach to gender dysphoria.

Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, took “deep offense” at the remark and asserted her support for trans medical care.

If parents are unsupportive, Senate Republicans argued, 16-year-old Mainers can legally emancipate themselves to follow through with treatment. Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, rejected that solution, saying the goal should be to get teens the care they need without separating them from their family unit.

“Emancipation results in complete rupture of the relationship between parents and children,” Carney said. “This bill would keep the door open for that relationship to remain in place.”

Four years ago, Mills added coverage of gender-affirming care under the state’s Medicaid program.

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