U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Oregon, speaks on the House floor on March 10, 2023. (Image via C-SPAN screenshot)

U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas is calling on Congress and other state governments to follow Oregon’s lead supporting transgender people as the state seeks to expand access to gender-affirming care. 

In a short speech on the House floor Friday morning, Salinas, a Democrat, criticized “dangerous rhetoric” about trans people in Congress and across the country.

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend  highlighted the deep divide between Democrats and the conservative wing of the GOP on this issue. Among the examples: One speaker said that “transgenderism” must be eradicated from public life. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, described gender-affirming care as a “billion-dollar industry that mutilates the genitals of children.” Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley complained that President Joe Biden made soldiers take “gender pronoun classes.” 

And the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee on Thursday approved on party lines a bill that would bar transgender girls and women from competing in girls’ or women’s sports. Oregon Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici voted against the legislation, while Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer voted for it.

“Oregon is proof that we can be better than this,” Salinas said in her speech. “And for the sake of the transgender community, we must be.”

Since 2015, the Oregon Health Plan has covered gender-affirming medical treatment, including some surgeries, hormone treatment and puberty blockers. The law also requires private insurers to cover such treatment, though advocates say insurance coverage often falls short.

A top priority for legislative Democrats this year, House Bill 2002, would expand coverage to other services, including facial feminization surgery or laser hair removal for transgender women. It would also require the state Department of Consumer and Business Services to evaluate insurance companies’ compliance with state mandates to cover gender-affirming care and reproductive health care, including abortions.

The bill also would protect doctors and other health care providers from losing their licenses or facing other repercussions for providing abortions or gender-affirming care. 

Salinas told the Capital Chronicle that politicians should support trans people, especially children. 

“We don’t need members of Congress trying to dictate what feels like an individual family decision,” Salinas said. “These kids need love and support. Any kind of messages that we can be sending that says we support these kids and their families, that is what we need to be doing.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union erroneously lists seven bills it categorizes as anti-LGBTQ as “advancing” in the Oregon Legislature, a designation the group uses in other states for bills that have been voted out by committees or approved by either the House or Senate. The Oregon bills were introduced by Republicans and would bar trans girls from playing in girls’ sports, ban gender-related surgeries for minors and bar the state from providing gender-affirming care for prisoners.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield and Senate President Rob Wagner assigned those bills to committees, as they do with every bill. But none of the measures have been scheduled for hearings, and they’re dead if committee chairs don’t schedule hearings and committee votes by March 17.

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.