Next week,the Missouri state senate is set to pass legislation that would formally ban performing hormone therapy and gender transitioning operations on minors. The bill has had sweeping support from conservative state officials, but a Democrat-backed filibuster has put its passing on hold. A group of local conservative action committees hopes to change this, however. They will be staging a rally in front of the Missouri capitol building Monday evening when the state senate is set to reassemble to vote on the bill. “We might be there a couple of hours, or it could go all night long,” a description of the event read. They expect the rally to draw a large crowd, and state Republicans are hoping the event could be just what is needed to force a vote and pass the legislation.
By Kurt Erickson; March 15, 2023
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A conservative political action committee is organizing a rally at the Missouri Capitol on Monday to push state lawmakers to enact strict limits on transgender health care for minors.
Jodi Widhalm, a Jefferson City activist associated with the Missouri Freedom Foundation PAC, said she is not sure how many people will join her in events aimed at pressuring the Republican-controlled Senate to approve legislation that would block gender-affirming care for transgender minors, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries.
“I’m hopeful we will have a good size crowd,” Widhalm said Wednesday.
Among activities on the docket are a prayer time in the Capitol rotunda, a rally featuring anti-trans speakers and, when the Senate gavels in at 4 p.m. after being on a weeklong spring break, a so-called “filibuster watch” regarding the controversial bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.
“We might be there a couple of hours or it could go all night long,” the event description notes.
Widhalm said the driving force behind the rally is frustration with Senate Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, who adjourned the Senate a day early last week as lawmakers headed into their annual spring break.
The move came after Democrats filibustered Moon’s bill.
Widhalm, whose PAC was active in the 2022 election, said she wants O’Laughlin to force a vote on the proposal without watering it down to appease opponents.
“I obviously want the bill to pass,” she said.
The rally coincides with the goals of a hard-line faction of Missouri Senate Republicans who say they are prepared to use “whatever tools and procedures necessary” to force a final vote on the limits next week.
The group of eight Republicans has expressed disappointment with the Senate’s early adjournment for spring break after Democrats delayed a vote on the bill for two days through a filibuster on the Senate floor.
O’Laughlin has been meeting with Democrats in an attempt to forge an agreement on language allowing the issue to be voted on without using a parliamentary maneuver that typically generates a major backlash from the minority party.
Widhalm said she is concerned Senate leaders will water down the measure by, for example, only applying the health care prohibition to surgeries instead of other treatments.
It is not known whether O’Laughlin will bring Moon’s bill up for debate on Monday or whether another version of the limits might be on tap for debate.
Legislative aides said she also could put the issue aside while negotiators work behind closed doors to find a path forward.
The latest version of Moon’s legislation would prohibit physicians and other health care providers from knowingly providing “gender transition procedures” to individuals younger than 18.
Providers also wouldn’t be allowed to knowingly refer minors to other clinics that provide gender-affirming care without risking disciplinary action from a state licensing entity or disciplinary review board.
Under the bill’s definition, “gender transition procedures” wouldn’t include care for those “born with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development” including individuals with “irresolvably ambiguous” genitalia.
During the 2022 election, the Missouri Freedom Foundation PAC pumped money into Senate Republican primary races, helping Sen. Jill Carter, R-Granby, unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Bill White of Joplin.
The PAC also spent more than $30,000 unsuccessfully trying to unseat Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and nearly $12,000 against Sen. Justin Brown, R-Rolla.
The legislation is Senate Bill 49.