Sponsor of anti-trans legislation speaks out

Sponsor of anti-trans legislation speaks out

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Pennsylvania state Rep. Jesse W. Topper last week voiced continued support for his controversial bill that would block state dollars from funding a wide variety of trans services in health-care plans.

“I’ve not been convinced that tax dollars should go to any of those [trans] procedures or services,” the Republican told PGN.

But Topper also conceded that passage of House Bill 1933 isn’t his top priority, and that he couldn’t predict when it might come up for a final vote.

“There’s no definitive time frame,” he said.

H.B. 1933, which Topper introduced in November, would ban state funding for trans-specific services such as puberty blockers, gender-confirmation surgeries, mastectomies, penectomies and hormonal therapies.

The proposed measure has been released from a committee and could be called for a final vote any time the Republican leadership of the state House decides to do so.

The bill wouldn’t affect private health plans, nor people with “ambiguous genitalia” enrolled in state-supported health plans, according to the bill’s language.

Topper, 36, said there could be better ways to treat gender dysphoria without resorting to “life-altering surgeries,” claiming that numerous medical professionals agree with that view.

He also expressed disappointment that the bill didn’t come up for a final vote last year.

“I believe in the public policy I’m supporting,” he said.

According to Topper, the legislation would help return the state’s public policy on trans issues to the days before Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf took office.

Topper also said he wouldn’t oppose public hearings on the bill if it reaches the Senate. He said it’s too late to hold hearings in the House, as the bill already has been released from a committee.

“I’m always open to hearings — to transparency and folks coming in and sharing,” Topper added.

Dec. 7, 2017: Advocates seek to 'educate' legislators in Harrisburg

The legislator said he’s focused on representing his 65,000 constituents in Bedford, Franklin and Fulton counties, located in the south-central part of the state.

He said no specific community — including the LGBT community or the medical community — would determine his stance on a particular issue.

“I’m not prepared to give away legislative authority to develop public policy based on what people in a certain community feel. We have to develop the public policy as legislators. And the medical community needs to follow that public policy as they do in other fields.”

Topper said he’s in favor of basic civil rights for the LGBT community.

“I believe in civil rights for all under the Constitution,” he said.

But he stopped short of supporting a statewide LGBT civil-rights bill currently pending in a House committee.

“I’m opposed to the bill in its current form,” he said. “But I would be willing to negotiate on the bill for a better product.”

Speaking hypothetically, Topper said he would support a same-sex couple who wanted to be seated at a restaurant of their choice. But he also said the government shouldn’t order the restaurant owner to cater that couple’s wedding reception.

Topper said he has friends in the LGBT community and that they didn’t fault him for introducing H.B. 1933. “None of my friends would do that because they know me, they know my heart, my character and why I believe what I believe.”

Topper also said he doesn’t resent when opponents say he needs to be “educated” on trans issues, adding he has heard from some trans people who support H.B. 1933.

Topper was asked the main thing he’d like to convey to the LGBT community. “We can have civil, reasonable discussions — even about the most sensitive, emotional issues,” he replied. “As Americans and Pennsylvanians, we can still have difficult discussions in the public arena without automatically thinking the worst of each other. We can all do better on both sides by understanding there are nuances to these discussions.”

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