At last week’s City Council meeting, the Santa Monica City Council declined to file a brief in support of the plaintiffs in the case of Samantha Williams and Brian Williams v. Jonathan Skrmetti in the United States District Court of Tennessee. The case is a challenge to Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18.
As it involved a legal matter, the discussion happened behind closed doors so the details of the discussion are confidential. However, activists were disappointed the city didn’t step up, for whatever reason after the lukewarm support the Council showed for gender-neutral bathroom construction requirements this Spring. With Tennessee also trying to get the legal right to medical records from other states, it’s not hard to see how making a stand against the state now could save Santa Monica, and everyone, legal headaches down the road.
While the issue of providing medical care to transgender youth has become a politically charged issue with politicians attempting to demonize transgender people, the medical community has long-argued that gender affirming care saves lives. In June, the AMA passed a resolution that, “committed to opposing any criminal and legal penalties against patients seeking gender-affirming care, family members or guardians who support them in seeking medical care, and health care facilities and clinicians who provide gender-affirming care.” The resolution was then co-sponsored by The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Urological Association, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American College of Physicians, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ+ Equality and AMA’s Medical Student Section.
There are several reasons the Council could have opted not to take a position on the issue from the cost associated with writing a brief for an issue in court thousands of miles away, to just not being clear or supportive of the issue. In both the months leading up to the April meeting and in the weeks after, three of the seven Councilmembers, Mayor Gleam Davis as well as Jesse Zwick and Caroline Torosis, went on record as supportive of gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children.
“If this was a concern about using city resources and staff bandwidth on a legal case from far away, I’d offer that this opportunity was much more than that,” wrote Dan Hall, a local activist who sits on the Pier Commission and spoke at the April Council meeting in support of transgender bathrooms. “Show me how you spend your time and money and I’ll show you your values.”
Hall went on to write that, “Just last week, our new DEI Manager, Lisa Parsons, stated that “when we added ‘transgender’ as one of the identities and data focus points in the Wellbeing Index… they had the highest rates of not feeling like they belonged in their neighborhoods.”
By supporting the case against the State of Tennessee, Hall argues that the city missed a chance to make those people feel more involved and welcomed in their own city.
“When the LGBTQ+ community is being attacked in neighboring cities like Chino Hills, Glendale, and Temecula at public meetings, this was an opportunity to say ‘We’re Santa Monica. This is who we are,'” he concluded.
Council didn’t take that opportunity last week.