Michigan AG Dana Nessel Speaks Out Against Anti-Trans Laws in Kentucky, Tennessee

Nessel says the laws 'marginalize a community that often feels invisible'

Jason A. Michael

Dana Nessel, Michigan’s brave, bold and ultra out attorney general, recently joined Attorneys General from 20 other states to oppose the horrific anti-trans laws recently passed in Kentucky and Tennessee. 

The specific laws, Tennessee’s Senate Bill 1 and Kentucky’s SB 150, will make it practically impossible for transgender minors to find gender-affirming care in those states. Nessel filed an amicus brief in the case, which was brought forth by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, Lambda Legal and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP on behalf of Samantha and Brian Williams of Nashville. 

The Williams have a 15-year-old transgender daughter who is only one of an estimated 3,000 transgender adolescents who will be affected by the law, which would require anyone under 18 currently receiving gender-affirming care to end it within nine months from the law’s passage in July.

“The Tennessee and Kentucky laws serve to further marginalize a community that often feels invisible,” Nessel told WDIV Channel 4. “These laws shove the state government between minor patients, their parents, and the recommendations of trusted medical specialists their families have chosen to care for them. I proudly stand with my colleagues in opposing these laws that do not comport with the way we should treat our children or our LGBTQ+ community.”

Other AGs across the country issued similar statements. 

“Restricting gender-affirming care jeopardizes the physical and mental health of transgender youth,” said Illinois AG Kwame Raoul. “Transgender youth deserve access to gender-affirming care, and I am committed to ensuring they are not denied those rights.”

Connecticut AG William Tong was direct.

“Partisan politicians need to stop micromanaging our private healthcare decisions, period,” he said. “The Kentucky and Tennessee laws have no basis in sound medical judgment, and inflict serious, lasting harm to minors seeking gender-affirming care. I join attorneys general across the country in asking the court to block these discriminatory and damaging laws.”

A federal district judge previously issued an injunction against the Tennessee law. However, the injunction was later lifted by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now the Tennessee and Kentucky cases have been combined as they both fall under the jurisdiction of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Transcend the Binary Executive Director Brayden Misolek notes that access to care has been show to improve well-being for trans individuals. Without that access, Misolek said, a person’s situation can become tragic. Suicide rates are higher among youth who live in states with aggressive anti-trans legislation, which has exploded across the country over the past few years.

“While our national re-evaluates our mental health following the pandemic, socio-political attacks further compound for marginalized communities like ours,” Misolek said. “The fact is gender affirming care is no different than any other form of health care except that it is is more scarce. Criminalizing treatment goes against standards and guidelines of care within the medical field and is state-sanctioned harm.”

In a statement released via the ACLU, Samantha Williams spoke about how hurtful this process has been. “It was incredibly painful watching my child struggle before we were able to get her the life-saving healthcare she needed,” she said. “We have a confident, happy daughter now, who is free to be herself and she is thriving.”

Now, Williams said she is frightened. “I am so afraid of what this law will mean for her. We don’t want to leave Tennessee, but this legislation would force us to either routinely leave our state to get our daughter the medical care she desperately needs or to uproot our entire lives and leave Tennessee altogether. No family should have to make this kind of choice.”

Even more compelling, Samantha and Brian Williams’ daughter also issued a statement.

“I don’t even want to think about having to go back to the dark place I was in before I was able to come out and access the care that my doctors have prescribed for me,” said the daughter, who is not being named as she is a minor. “I want this law to be struck down so that I can continue to receive the care I need, in conversation with my parents and my doctors, and have the freedom to live my life and do the things I enjoy.”

Locally, reaction has been swift. Roz Keith is not only the executive director of Stand with Trans, she is the mother of a trans person as well. “Dana Nessel is on the right side of the issue,” she said. “Denying care to youth who are transgender is discriminatory. Trans youth, and especially those who experience gender dysphoria, are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers. Taking away access to gender-affirming medical care increases the likelihood of self-harm, substance use, suicidality, anxiety and other behaviors that erode self-esteem and mental wellness.”

As a parent, Keith has a unique perspective that most conservative lawmakers do not.

“People who don’t have any skin in the game are attempting to make decisions for those who do,” she said. “No parent, unless you lived this journey with your (trans) child, is equipped to make a decision about what’s best for my child or any other transgender young person who needs appropriate medical care and treatment.”


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