ATLANTA — Georgia will ban most surgeries and hormone replacement therapies for transgender children and teens, under a law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday.
Legislators on Tuesday had given final approval to what has become the most fiercely contested bill of Georgia's 2023 legislative session.
Senate Bill 140 also restricts transgender athletes and drag shows.
Governors in Mississippi, Utah and South Dakota have signed similar bills.
“I appreciate the many hours of respectful debate and deliberation by members of the General Assembly that resulted in final passage of this bill,” Kemp said in a statement. “As Georgians, parents and elected leaders, it is our highest responsibility to safeguard the bright, promising future of our kids — and SB 140 takes an important step in fulfilling that mission.”
Opponents say they believe the new law is an unconstitutional infringement on parents' rights. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said it would “use every legal means at our disposal” to overturn the law.
Judges have — at least temporarily — blocked similar laws in Arkansas and Alabama.
Doctors would still be able to prescribe medicines to block puberty under the Georgia law, which takes effect July 1. It also says that minors who are already receiving hormone therapy will be allowed to continue.
Supporters say the law's restrictions prevent children from making decisions they might later regret. Cole Muzio, president of the conservative Christian group Frontline Policy Action, had pushed for even stronger prohibitions. While he applauded Kemp signing the measure, he also called it “one of the weakest in the country," promising more efforts at restrictions.
“Gov. Kemp has never been afraid to protect children and we appreciate his continued commitment to standing against radical and harmful agendas,” Muzio said in a statement.
Critics said the measure will require physicians to violate medical standards of care and that Republicans had abandoned their previous support for parents' rights to make choices.
“This legislation is a clear attack on the rights of transgender children, their parents, and the medical community in Georgia as a whole,” Jeff Graham, the executive director of LGBTQ-rights group Equality Georgia, said in a statement. “Parents, working in collaboration with their medical teams and adhering to standards of care, should be able to make decisions regarding their child’s healthcare.”