IN Brief

Parental rights bill involving transgender children likely dead

By: - March 14, 2023 11:30 am

Sen. Rodric Bray answers questions from reporters on May 22, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Monroe Bush for the Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, has assigned a controversial bill involving transgender children and the Department of Child Services to the Senate Rules Committee, likely meaning it is dead for the session.

While the Senate sometimes uses the panel to vet legislation, that won’t be the case for House Bill 1407.

“Sen. Bray has serious concerns about the legislation and, citing the pending court case on the matter, doesn’t see a path forward for the bill,” spokeswoman Molly Fishell told the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

The Indiana House narrowly passed the bill 58-33. It would have banned courts from removing transgender children from their parents based only on parent refusal to seek gender-affirming care or otherwise support transitions.

The legislation centers on one Hoosier family — and its estranged transgender daughter — whose case is still in court.

“All’s I’m trying to do is, in this bill, is to protect parents from government’s overreach [in] taking their children from them without having harmed them,” bill author Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Granger, said on the floor.

House Bill 1407 includes a quasi-parents bill of rights, declaring that parents have “the fundamental right to direct” how they raise their children. That includes physical and mental health, education, and any other “inalienable rights” not specifically ceded legally. Government, it says, can’t “infringe” without a good reason.

And the bill says that parents declining to consent to any form of affirmative care — names, pronouns, temporary puberty-blockers, hormone doses, surgical procedures, mental health services or other — doesn’t mean children need the Department of Child Services to step in.

At the center of the legislation is one Anderson family with a transgender daughter.

Mother Mary Cox claimed in committee this month that DCS removed her child from her home, placing her with an affirming foster home, because she and her husband didn’t accept their daughter’s gender identity.

Later testimony from Cox’s attorney, who represented her in court proceedings against DCS, revealed that the 16-year-old had said she didn’t want to return home to her parents – a factor that may be considered by courts in certain types of cases.

DCS told the Capital Chronicle that it does not open cases solely because parents don’t support transitions.

In Cox’s case, DCS removed the child after reports of the parents verbally abusing the child and refusing to treat the child’s eating disorder. An October ruling from the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed DCS’ actions.

“The Parents have the right to exercise their religious beliefs, but they do not have the right to exercise them in a manner that causes physical or emotional harm to Child,” the court ruled.

The case has been appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.