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Over the weekend, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed into law a bill that would stop doctors from performing sex-change operations on, or prescribing dangerous cross-sex hormones to, children under the age of 18.

In one sense, this shouldn’t be surprising. The vast majority of Americans support such legislation, and a growing number of states, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida, have already banned these procedures at some level. Many more states are expected to join them in the weeks and months ahead, with dozens of bills already working their way through legislatures across the country.

But in another sense, the signing of this bill is shocking. Cox, more than perhaps any other Republican governor in the country, has closely allied himself with the LGBT lobby for years now. The state LGBT advocacy group Equality Utah has described him as “a true champion for LGBT youth.” He has been known to introduce himself with his pronouns. A year ago, he vetoed legislation that would have banned males from competing in women’s sports on the grounds that it would be “harmful” to transgender youth.

Gov. Spencer Cox (he/him) is hardly a culture warrior, but he still signed a ground-breaking law enacting a moratorium on sex changes for kids in the state of Utah.

Nevertheless, he has come to recognize that he’s on the losing side of this issue. Children too young to drink, vote, buy cigarettes, or get a tattoo should not be considered old enough to sign up for irreversible sexual modifications — and everyone knows it. These procedures do nothing but harm the vulnerable children they profess to “affirm,” and the advocacy groups and pharmaceutical lobbyists who promote these procedures are driven more by personal ideology and profit motive than they are by concern for the health and well-being of these children. Utah’s bill is hardly perfect, but Cox should be praised for doing the right thing and standing up to protect Utah’s most vulnerable children from medical predation and experimentation.

The issue of pushing children into sex-change surgeries has reached a political tipping point. The warning signs have become impossible for even the most pro-LGBT politicians to ignore. Various medical professionals and social scientists from across the political spectrum have started to raise the alarm about the enormous explosion in transgender identification among children in recent years. Even the New York Times has run stories starting to question the wisdom of putting children so young through sex-change surgeries or chemically-castrating hormone regimens. Left-leaning European countries such as Sweden, Finland, and the U.K. have started to recommend pauses on these procedures for minors.

Within the Republican Party, the change has also been immense. Just a few years ago, GOP governors were balking at the prospect of wading into what they saw as an unpleasant front of the “culture war.” They believed that the risk was far greater than any reward. Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, thought he was being savvy two years ago by vetoing his state’s proposed ban on sex changes for minors (the law passed over his veto anyway). He took to television and the Washington Post to pat himself on the back for his bravery, arguing that allowing children to be mutilated was an essential part of a conservative free-market philosophy.

Now, that veto has all but certainly doomed his already self-indulgent White House aspirations. You can’t run to become the Republican nominee and be further to the left on the culture war than Spencer Cox. If Hutchinson had any self-awareness, he wouldn’t even try. The Republican Party is and must be united around the protection of children.

Nor has this been the electoral liability that people like Hutchinson seemed to have feared. Poll after poll shows that the overwhelming majority of voters, not just Republicans, oppose sex-change procedures for minors. If politicians aren’t persuaded by the moral urgency, they should at least be persuaded by their political self-interest. Polling from my organization, the American Principles Project, shows that voters in swing states support bans like Utah’s by a 22-point margin, including a 20-point margin among suburban women and a nearly 40-point margin among independent voters. When APP ran ads on the issue this past election cycle, we found that they moved voters at higher rates than practically every other issue we’ve ever used.

If there is any doubt that these issues are politically helpful rather than harmful, look to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He has consistently gone on the offensive over the Left’s attacks on children and has had immense political success. He’s signed legislation protecting girls’ sports in public schools. He’s banned schools from teaching transgender ideology from kindergarten through third grade. His administration banned sex changes for children and fired a prosecutor who refused to enforce the ban. After all this, he won reelection by nearly 20 points.

And make no mistake: former President Donald Trump is also committed to this fight. He released a video through his campaign on Tuesday committing to revoking “Joe Biden’s cruel policies on so-called gender-affirming care,” while also pledging, among other things, to call on Congress to pass a federal ban on sex changes for minors, strip Medicare/Medicaid funding from healthcare providers that perform transition procedures on youths, create a private right of action for victims of “gender-affirming care” to sue doctors who misled them, investigate pharmaceutical companies for promoting illegally-marketed cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers, and protect the rights of parents to resist gender ideology.

The standard has now been set. Especially in the presidential primaries, Republican politicians will have to at least rival the scope of these policies in order to compete. Protecting children from transgender ideology is now a central plank of the Republican platform. There’s no longer room in the GOP for anything less. And if Spencer Cox is any indication, supporting a ban on sex changes for minors will be more like the floor, rather than the ceiling, of what voters can and will demand from Republican candidates.

Author: Jon Schweppe


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