Vermont enacts most comprehensive transgender healthcare protections to date 

Silhouette of people with transgender flag colors
Trans, image by Gerd Altmann

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law two bills — HB 89 and SB 37 — protecting access to essential healthcare for transgender people. The bills became law on May 10, 2023.

The new laws come as at least 18 states have moved to ban established healthcare for transgender adolescents or adults. Together, HB 89 and SB 37 create the most comprehensive protections to date for both providers and seekers of transgender healthcare, as well as reproductive care.

“The dangerous attacks on LGBTQ+ people across the U.S. — particularly transgender people — demand action by all who are committed to freedom and human rights. Vermont has answered that call,” Polly Crozier, Director of Family Advocacy at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders said. “While extremist legislators in some states are denying science and rushing to ban evidence-based medical care, the Vermont legislature and Governor Scott have enacted comprehensive protections for transgender people and their healthcare providers and set a model for other states to follow.”

HB 89, an Act Relating to Civil and Criminal Procedures Concerning Legally Protected Health Care Activity — introduced by Representatives Katherine Donnally, Martin LaLonde and Taylor Small — declares access to transgender healthcare and reproductive healthcare a right in the state. Bill HB 89 states that “interference with legally protected healthcare activity, whether or not under the color of law, is against the public policy of this State.” 

HB 89 protects individuals providing or seeking transgender or reproductive healthcare in Vermont from abusive civil or criminal litigation arising from another state. It also provides address confidentiality protections for providers and seekers of reproductive and transgender healthcare and increases penalties for threatening or using force against those providing or obtaining such legally protected care.

SB 37, an Act Relating to Access to Legally Protected Health Care Activity and Regulation of Health Care Providers – introduced by Senators Virginia Lyons, Ruth Hardy, Alison Clarkson and Kesha Ram Hinsdale – requires that health insurers provide coverage for transgender and reproductive healthcare and protects providers from being subject to disciplinary action or increased malpractice insurance premiums or risk classification for providing such care.

Keith Goslant, LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont Chair said, “Extremist attacks on the LGBTQIA community are taking a terrible toll, particularly on LGBTQIA young people, and today Vermont is sending a clear message that we proudly and strongly support our LGBTQIA family.” 

Every major medical association endorses the standards of care for transgender adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria as best-practice, research-based medical care. Yet, amid a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation being promoted across parts of the country, 18 states have passed laws or regulations banning access to such care. Federal courts have issued rulings blocking bans in three states — Alabama, Arkansas, and Missouri — and legal challenges to bans in several other states are pending.

“Inclusion and equality are core Vermont values, and this legislation demonstrates once again our deep commitment to protecting and affirming LGBTQIA people,” Brenda Churchill, LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont Liaison Team said. “In the face of escalating bans on essential healthcare for transgender people across the country, our state is doing everything in its power to ensure that care remains protected here.” 

In addition to Vermont, nine states have passed laws or issued executive orders protecting access to healthcare for transgender people, and bills are currently pending in seven other states. Governor Scott is the second Republican governor to sign legislation protecting access to transgender healthcare after former Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker signed such a bill last year.