Governor David Ige of Hawaii has signed into law three bills that solidify protections for transgender citizens, The Hill reports. The new laws come at time when several states across the US are seeking to limit trans and nonbinary freedoms, particularly in regards to healthcare.
“‘The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu’ exhibited behind me explores our past and highlights the fact that native Hawaiians had a special, respected place for citizens of dual identity,” Ige said during the signing ceremony. “We are here today not only to acknowledge that rich history but also to signify that moving forward, we are redoubling our efforts to be a more inclusive community in total.”
The first bill, titled the Gender Affirming Treatment Act, establishes gender-affirming healthcare as medically necessary under the law, requiring insurance companies to cover it. This includes hormone therapy, surgeries, hair removal, and voice training. At the same time, The Hill notes “insurance companies may only be required to cover gender-affirming medical care when treatments, like hormone therapy, are also covered for patients that use them for ‘purposes other than gender transition.’”
The second bill prohibits jury exclusion based on gender identity or expression. “Our Constitution requires a jury of peers, and we believe that everyone in our community should be a participant in our system,” Ige said.
The third bill creates an ongoing commission dedicated to improving the lives of queer Hawaiians. The commission’s members will be made up of county representatives appointed by the governor. Per the bill text, the purpose is to “establish a body to improve the State’s interface with members of the [LGBTQ+] community; identify the short- and long-range needs of its members; and ensure that there is an effective means of researching, planning, and advocating for the equity of this population in all aspects of state government.”
Ige added, “The commission will play a critical role in coordinating programs, creating public awareness and establishing long-range goals and cooperation on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. Collectively, these three bills are critical in supporting the LGBTQ+ members in our community.”
Senator Chris Lee, co-sponsor of the third bill, spoke on the importance of these laws in meeting the moment, when trans healthcare has become a particular obsession of the right wing. “These bills, while important each on their own merits, mean so much more,” he said. “This isn’t just about a commission or jury service – this is about fundamentally rejecting the politics of division and discrimination now permeating throughout the rest of the country.”