In the dark of night on the last day of the legislative session in Washington state, Senate Democrats passed Senate Bill 5599, a breathtaking evisceration of parental rights. The bill would allow the state to legally hide runaway children from their parents if the parents don’t consent to their child’s “gender transition” or abortion. No allegation of abuse in the household is required.
This bill also applies to children from other states who may travel thousands of miles for such procedures not available to them at home, cementing Washington as a “sanctuary state” for runaway teens. And if that wasn’t enough, the bill allocates up to $7.5 million of Washington taxpayers’ money to the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection to provide grants to organizations to pay for gender transition and abortion procedures.
All Democrats voted yes; all Republicans voted no.
Sure, Washington’s bill does lip service to providing parents with notification of the whereabouts of their runaway minor children. But there is no such obligation if a “compelling reason” exists not to do so. And that’s the bill’s real poison.
As described in Section 2 of the bill, a minor’s desire to seek “protected health care services” is a compelling reason not to notify parents of the child’s location or to seek parental consent before those health care services are delivered.
The definitions of “protected health care services” are cross-referenced from another Senate bill, SB 5489 (titled the “Shield Law”), and include all “gender-affirming treatments”—whether medical, surgical, social, behavioral—and all “reproductive health care services”—including abortion, contraception, and/or “assisted reproduction” (in vitro fertilization).
Together, these bills clear the way for children between the ages of 13 and 17—without their parents’ knowledge—to stay at shelters that welcome runaways for an indefinite time while they seek these procedures.
The bill is the brainchild of state Sen. Marko Liias, a Democrat, who has positioned it as a necessary protection for minors seeking access to “safe shelter” when their home environments are “unsupportive.”
After the Senate’s passage of the bill, Liias said, “We know that young people experiencing homelessness are exposed to dangerous and harmful outcomes … This legislation ensures that our trans youth have safe options and access to secure, stable shelter when they may not be welcome at home.”
Liias did not elaborate on what those “dangerous” or “harmful” outcomes might be.
As co-chair of the LGBTQ Caucus in the Washington Senate, Liias is known for his efforts to promote prevailing progressive orthodoxy and eliminate parental rights and religious dissent when it comes to legislation related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
He has pushed bills to require schools to adopt policies that “protect trans kids from bullying” and to ban so-called conversion therapy. He has also championed the Gender Affirming Care Act, which guarantees that Washingtonians who identify as “transgender” and “gender diverse” can receive what the act calls “medically necessary” treatment by prohibiting health insurers from denying or limiting coverage for so-called gender-affirming treatment.
The weight of popular opinion is overwhelmingly against Washington’s runaway sanctuary bill. As the Washington Senate Republican Caucus pointed out, analysis of the online commentary on the bill indicates that nearly 80% has been negative. And when SB 5599 received a hearing before the Senate Human Services Committee back in February, more than 4,700 public comments were received, with 98% of them in opposition.
In a statement after the bill’s introduction, state Senate Republican Leader John Braun issued a statement pointing out its utter madness:
Unless there is reason to suspect parental abuse or harm, parents deserve to know where their teenagers are. … Democrats have claimed many times that the brains of minors are not fully developed until age 22. Right now, they are sponsoring a juvenile offender sentencing bill [Senate Bill 5475] based on ‘the expansive body of scientific research on brain development, which shows that adolescents’ perception, judgment, and decision-making skills differs significantly from that of adults.’ It’s revealing how brain research matters to them when juveniles break the law, but not when they seek life-altering, potentially irreversible health care.
The horrifying reality is that Washington’s bill is not the first of its kind, nor is it likely to be the last. Within a few months of Washington’s introduction of the bill, California—already a “sanctuary state” for minors seeking so-called gender transition—fell in line and introduced a similarly devastating bill. The California proposal would allow a minor to obtain “gender-affirming” mental health interventions without parental knowledge or consent.
But all is not lost. Some states are taking the opposite approach of California and Washington. In response to increasing attempts to transition children in the state of Missouri, for example, Attorney General Andrew Bailey recently issued an emergency order restricting the use of experimental transgender interventions on minors. His order was backed by a group of doctors, nurses, and health care professionals, despite the predictable hue and cry of “bigotry” from transgender activists.
In addition, bills like California’s and Washington’s are so devastating to parental rights that they are unlikely to survive a legal challenge. As I’ve written about here, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized for at least 100 years that the Constitution protects parental rights to direct the upbringing of their children. As recently as 2000, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that parental rights were among the “oldest of our recognized fundamental rights.”
In the meantime, parents who are skeptical of government efforts to divest them of their right to parent their kids might want to start looking for real estate in places like Missouri.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal