Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is locked in a dispute over whether Kansas City police should help the state enforce a soon-to-be-enacted ban on gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth.
Bailey, a Republican, is seeking to enlist the police force in blocking access to gender-affirming treatments, in response to a resolution approved by the Kansas City Council earlier this month declaring the state’s largest city as a “sanctuary” for people seeking out gender-affirming care.
But the Kansas City Police Department argues that the attorney general is asking the department to interfere in matters beyond its purview.
Under the resolution approved by the Kansas City Council, the city will not prosecute or fine any person or organization who seeks out, provides, receives, or assists someone in receiving (including providing information about the availability of) gender-affirming treatments, such as puberty blockers, hormones, or surgery.
The resolution also says that if the state passes a law imposing criminal or civil punishments, fines, or professional sanctions, that police and legal personnel will make enforcing those requirements “their lowest priority,” according to the Associated Press.
Missouri lawmakers recently passed a law seeking to restrict access to gender-affirming care, but the bill has not yet been signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.
Parson is expected to sign the ban into effect and previously threatened to call lawmakers into a special session if the bill did not pass during the regular legislative session.
But the yet-to-be-enacted bill does not include any criminal penalties for youth seeking gender-affirming care, their parents, or even the doctors who prescribe such treatments.
Rather, the law would place providers who provide such care at risk of being sued or having their professional license revoked.
In a letter to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, Bailey demanded city authorities enforce the ban, despite the city’s resolution.
“It is the Board’s constitutional duty to enforce the law and ensure that children are protected from these dangerous, experimental gender transition interventions,” Bailey wrote. “As Missouri’s top legal officer, I will take any legal action necessary against the City to ensure our state laws are enforced.”
But Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves has said the department will not enforce the transgender ban because the law falls “outside the jurisdiction of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.”
“Based on the nature of the proposed changes in the law, the police department plays no role in these law changes because the provisions do not pertain to criminal conduct, but rather seeks enforcement through medical licensing and civil action,” Graves said in a statement.
Graves also said she wanted to assure city residents that the police department “will continue to serve all the members of the community equitably regardless of race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”
Jackson County Prosecutors Jean Peters Baker, who represents the county containing Kansas City, has said her office will take legal steps to protect transgender people in Missouri.
“Rather than focusing on crim[i]nalizing trans individuals, the criminal justice system should seek to protect them,” Baker said in a statement shortly after the Council passed its “sanctuary” resolution. “Each person needs to know they can seek health care for their needs and that those needs will be addressed.”
State Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-North Kansas City) criticized Bailey for conflating the ban’s civil penalties with the police’s criminal authority.
“Sounds like Andrew Bailey needs to Google what police do instead of making them waste their time explaining to the state’s top lawyer that police handle criminal cases, not civil actions,” Arthur told the Kansas City Star on Wednesday.
Bailey previously sought to implement an “emergency rule” in April that would have required adults and minors to wait for three years, and undergo at least 18 months of “talk therapy” before receiving gender-affirming treatments.
The rule also sought to require medical providers to continuously certify that their patients continue to suffer from ongoing gender dysphoria, certify that patients are not autistic, and treat any other existing mental co-morbidities before prescribing any gender-affirming treatments.
Civil liberties advocates and LGBTQ rights groups blasted the rule at the time, accusing Bailey of overstepping his authority by imposing a ban that the legislature had not yet approved.
A St. Louis judge subsequently blocked the attorney general’s rule.
Bailey later withdrew the rule after his Republican allies in the legislature passed their own ban, which is set to be signed into law by Parson.
Critics have accused the attorney general of grandstanding in an attempt to “virtue-signal” to Republican voters.
Last week, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas urged residents not to engage with “certain statewide candidates” who have been attacking the city for its actions in solidarity with the transgender community.
“The attacks are performative, either to hide a silver spoon upbringing or to cover up a stunning lack of policy positions that will improve Missourians’ quality of life,” Lucas tweeted. “There are smart ways to battle. Amplifying their messages is not. Let’s have our narrative, not play theirs.”
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