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Attorneys general threaten to sue over Maines proposed transgender shield law


(The Center Square) — A group of 16 attorneys general are threatening to take Maine to court if lawmakers approve a bill to shield doctors performing “gender affirming” health care procedures from lawsuits.

In a letter to Maine Gov. Janet Mills and other state leaders, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and 15 other AGs representing red states rip the “unprecedented” proposal and accuse them of seeking to “contravene” the laws of other states “by imposing on the rest of the country Maine’s views on hotly debated issues such as gender transition surgeries for children.”

“Maine has every right to decide what Maine’s laws are and how those laws should be enforced,” the AGs wrote. “But that same right applies to every state. One state cannot control another. The totalitarian impulse to stifle dissent and oppress dissenters has no place in our shared America.”

The proposal, which is pending before the Legislature’s Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services, seeks to protect patients and health care providers in Maine who perform transgender care, abortions or provide in-vitro fertilization, procedures that are illegal in some other states.

Democrats and transgender rights groups backing the plan argue the protections are needed to shield patients and medical professionals who perform gender-affirming and other reproductive care from prosecution by other states.

However, the AGs said the proposal violates the U.S. Constitution and “flouts the federalist structure that allows each of our states to engage in self-government responsive to the will of our citizens.”

They said the plan would lead to “extraterritorial bullying” if one state objected to another’s laws on food, alcohol or cannabis sales, or even gun control measures.

“State officials would be dragged into legal battles in far-flung jurisdictions, thwarting their ability to focus on protecting their own citizens consistent with their own duly-enacted laws,” they wrote.

To be sure, there’s been plenty of opposition to the plan in Maine. Dozens of Mainers testified in opposition to the proposal during a hearing last week, many of them saying the legislation would trample on parental rights while raising myriad legal, moral and ethical concerns.

Members of the Maine Legislature’s Republican minority held a press conference blasting the plan for “stripping parental rights” and saying it would lead to “kidnappings” of children from other states where transgender procedures are banned.

The proposal comes in response to a “first of its kind in the nation” bill signed last year by Gov. Janet Mills, allowing access to gender-affirming care without parental consent or notification for 16- and 17-year-olds.

It’s a modified version of a bill filed by Democrats earlier this year that would have prohibited Maine from cooperating with law enforcement from states that have banned gender-affirming care who are investigating people who seek treatment in Maine. The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee rejected that bill, with Republicans and a handful of Democrats voting not to advance the plan.

Conservative blogs criticized the plan for promoting “trans tourism” and fueling culture wars by defying parents who objected to their children getting the procedure done.

In a separate statement, Skrmetti said Maine’s proposal would create “new avenues of lawfare at the state level to harass officials in other states” and said it would “catastrophically destabilize our constitutional order.”

“We have enough disagreement in America these days without state governments reaching outside their borders to cause trouble in other states,” he said. “It’s a fundamental principle of America that different states can approach controversial issues differently. If legislators in Maine don’t like Tennessee’s laws, they are free to continue not living in Tennessee.”