Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo recently signed two bills enhancing protections for transgender and gender nonconforming people at a time when Republican-led states have been passing record numbers of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Lombardo also vetoed a bill that protected providers offering gender-affirming care.
One bill signed Monday prevents insurance companies from discriminating against trans people on the basis of gender identity, while the other measure signed in late May requires prisons to develop regulations to ensure safety of trans and nonbinary people who are incarcerated.
“At a time when states across the country are passing draconian laws to restrict trans and nonbinary people’s right to exist, Nevada is doing the opposite,” Democratic state Sen. Melanie Scheible, who sponsored both bills, said in a statement.
Scheible also credited the policies advancing in Nevada to the work by trans and queer-led organizations like Gender Justice Nevada and Silver State Equality, which have fought for greater protections in past legislative sessions.
The passage of both bills comes as more than 520 anti-LGBTQ bills, including 220 targeting transgender and gender non-binary people, have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year alone, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The organization declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ people earlier this month in response to increased attacks, both legislative and physical, on the community.
Sy Bernabei, the executive director of Gender Justice Nevada, said the legislative wins in the state are all the more important considering the increased amount of anti-trans rhetoric nationwide.
“Most of us know we’re under attack and the rhetoric out there is strong and will only get worse,” Bernabei said. “When we get these victories, we have to enjoy it and savor it.”
This session saw multiple proposals enhancing the rights of trans people. Not all survived.
Lombardo vetoed Senate Bill 302, which would have prevented the governor from surrendering a person charged with a criminal violation in another state for receiving gender-affirming services in Nevada.
The bill also sought to prohibit health care licensing boards from disqualifying or disciplining a provider who gave gender-affirming services.
In his veto message, Lombardo wrote that the legislation prevented his office from having “the ability to be certain that all gender-affirming care related to minors comports with state law.”
His statement doesn’t specify what part of state law he was referencing.
“It also decreases the Executive Branch’s authority to ensure the highest public health and child safety standards for Nevadans,” he wrote.
Gender-affirming care for minors, which refers to a range of health care including mental health services, is supported by numerous national medical groups including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Nevada chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Nevada Psychological Association also supported SB 302.
“There is a lot of misinformation regarding gender-affirming care,” Nevada Psychological Association’s president Claudia Mejia, said in a letter to lawmakers. “A decade of research shows gender-affirming care reduces depression, suicidality, and other devastating consequences of trans young people who are forced to undergo puberty in the sex assigned at birth.”
Bernabei decried Lombardo’s veto message.
“You’re not protecting trans children” they said. “Full stop. Trans children need access to affirming health care just like trans adults.”
Senate Bill 163, which was signed Monday by Lombardo, requires certain health insurers to provide coverage for medically necessary treatments.
Scheible called the bill’s passage “one of the highlights of my career.”
The legislation had been opposed by conservative groups, including the Nevada Republican Party that falsely claimed the bill allows for minors to get surgical procedures
“This bill does nothing to change the types of care available to children and the types of parental notification and parental consent that is needed for a child to receive any type of medical care in the state of Nevada,” Scheible said during a hearing in May.
Bernabei said signing the bill prevents the state from potentially dealing with costly lawsuits.
“If this bill didn’t go through, (the state) was facing a ton of litigation from trans and nonbinary people because you’re being discriminatory about their health care,” they said. “We’ve already seen how this goes through the court system and big health care providers pay out a lot of money.”
Senate Bill 153, which was signed by Lombardo on May 31, requires the Nevada Department of Corrections to set up regulations around housing, custody, medical care and mental health treatment for trans and gender nonbinary treatment of people incarcerated in Nevada’s prison system.
The department of corrections, which testified in neutral, said there were already policies in place to protect trans inmates. However, several people housed in Nevada prisons, who provided letters during the bill’s first hearing in March, argued there weren’t nearly enough protections.
“Folks assume predators are other inmates,” wrote Deidra, who is currently being housed at Lovelock Correctional Center. “Sometimes they are corrections officers.”
Unlike other bills offering protections for trans and gender nonconforming people, SB 153 received Republican support in the Senate. Republican Sens. Carrie Buck and Lisa Krasner joined Democrats in advancing the bill in April.
Scheible had brought similar bills in 2021, but both failed to advance due to fiscal notes.