A view of the council chambers, with the committee seated in the foreground. Several dozen audience members are seated in the background.
Following a presentation by Merrique Jenson, the executive director of Transformations, and Dr. Ben Grin, chief medical officer of the Kansas City Health Department, the committee voted unanimously to recommend passage of the “safe haven” resolution. (Zach Bauman/The Beacon)

Editor’s note: This story was updated on May 11.

Kansas City Council has approved a resolution declaring the city a safe haven for gender-affirming care, by a vote of 11-1. Councilmember Heather Hall, who represents the 1st District, was the sole vote against.

On May 10, the same day that the Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee voted to recommend this resolution, the Missouri General Assembly passed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors

For the past year, transgender people in Missouri and their families have been shuttling back and forth to the capitol in Jefferson City to testify against legislation aimed at banning gender-affirming health care. But for the first time on Wednesday, trans Kansas Citians flocked to City Hall to support a measure that could protect these treatments from statewide bans.

The Kansas City Council resolution, sponsored by Andrea Bough, who represents the 6th District at large, Mayor Quinton Lucas and Eric Bunch, who represents the 4th District, declares the city a “safe haven” for gender-affirming care, instructing city personnel not to cooperate with state efforts to enforce a possible future health care ban.

Missouri Attorney General’s transgender health care rule

Missouri made national headlines in April when Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced an emergency rule that effectively banned gender-affirming health care for transgender people of all ages. Shortly afterward, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order on the rule, preventing it from going into effect until at least July 20.

Now that LGBTQ+ advocates have gotten a peek into what might lie in their future, they are wasting no time preparing.

“There was no question about whether we needed to do something,” Bough told The Beacon.

Access to gender-affirming care, which can include puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries, is supported by every major medical association.

Kansas City’s LGBTQ Commission and local organizations including Transformations rallied support for the resolution, and they hope that this will be the first of many actions taken to protect transgender people in Kansas City against state legislation.

The LGBTQ Commission brought the resolution to the City Council in April as a way to formally preserve access to gender-affirming care before the state passes restrictions on health care, instead of reacting afterward.

“There are a lot of folks who advised us to wait, see what happens with the attorney general, wait for a bill to happen,” Justice Horn, the commission’s chair, said during an Instagram Live on May 8. “As of today, this care is still legal in the state of Missouri. And we want to codify those rights on municipal books.”

What does the resolution do?

After the commission approached Bough with the resolution, Lucas and Bunch signed on.

In light of Missouri’s statewide ban on gender-affirming care for minors, this resolution instructs the city not to prosecute organizations for providing care or individuals for receiving it. The city also will not participate in arresting or detaining anyone for these reasons.

A few dozen audience members at the committee meeting raise their hands. It appears to be a vast majority, with only a few people not raising their hands.
Before taking a committee vote, Mayor Quinton Lucas asked the audience to raise their hands if they were in favor of the “safe haven” resolution. (Zach Bauman/The Beacon)

City personnel are instructed not to provide any information, such as medical records, to another county or state if that information is to be used to help find or prosecute someone for providing or receiving gender-affirming care.

“If at some point the ban goes into effect, we’re not going to do anything as a city to either prosecute at this level or to help in the prosecution,” Bough said on May 8. “We’re not going to make it easy.”

Because Kansas City does not have control over its own police department under the system of state control, the resolution simply encourages the Kansas City Police Department to take similar action.

Kansas City trans advocates see it as a starting point

A representative of Lucas, who also serves on the Board of Police Commissioners as the city’s mayor, said the mayor will submit a letter to the police board asking the department to adopt a similar policy. The representative did not say prior to publication whether Lucas intends to introduce a policy himself at the next board meeting.

To pass, the policy would need the support of at least two of the governor-appointed police board members.

Trans advocacy groups are also hoping for commitments from the Jackson, Clay and Platte County prosecutors that they will not comply with a statewide ban on gender-affirming care.

Merrique Jenson, the executive director and founder of Transformations, a nonprofit that supports and advocates for trans women of color, supports the resolution but advocated on May 10 for a few additions.

“Just like they have a recommendation for the Kansas City Police Department, I would love to see the same sort of recommendation or encouragement included to the different counties that they will not prosecute people as well,” Jenson told The Beacon. “It’s better than nothing. And it is making an active commitment on paper to trans people and their families, and I think that is certainly worth merit.”

A close-up view of a grey t-shirt, with a blue and pink butterfly design, with a trans pride sash over top.
Kansas City LGBTQ+ organizations rallied support for the “safe haven” resolution ahead of a committee hearing on May 10 and City Council vote on May 11. (Zachary Linhares/The Beacon)

Jenson sees this legislation as a great starting point for the city to bring trans people and specifically trans women of color into the governing process.

She said that although Kansas City tends to be an affirming place for trans people in general, trans people of color have a very different experience. For this reason, Jenson said, it’s important that Kansas City not only protect existing gender-affirming care, but also find ways to make access to that care equitable. 

“We know that trans people of color or trans women of color and trans kids without supportive families are still not receiving the same types of gender-affirming care services and practices as often white trans kids or white trans people with insurance,” she said. “But I think that this resolution could open the door to further conversations and commitments, and that’s the part that is the most promising.”

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Josh Merchant is The Kansas City Beacon's local government reporter. After graduating from Seattle University, Josh attended Columbia Journalism School, earning a master’s degree in investigative journalism....