In a nearly unanimous vote (25–1 with 3 abstaining), the Dane County Board of Supervisors voted yes on a resolution to establish Dane County as a sanctuary for transgender and non-binary people, the first of its kind in the nation, in the wee hours of the morning on June 16. They did so after sitting through hours of testimony, mostly from those opposed to the resolution who cited reasons like “religious beliefs, concern about bureaucracy, parental rights, and perceived harm to children receiving such care,” according to The Cap Times. In a letter to donors, Fair Wisconsin stated that, “For hours on end, opponents of the resolution spewed dangerous misinformation, slurs, and hateful talking points about trans people and the LGBTQ+ community at large. It was a frightening display of how far opponents of equality will go in order to derail progress and try to stop transgender people from demanding equality.”
While Dane County cannot pass laws that override those of the state, this sanctuary designation is an instruction to law enforcement that should the Wisconsin Legislature outlaw medical care for transgender people, to make enforcement of said laws the lowest priority possible. It does not guarantee legalization, it guarantees the decriminalization of that care.
While most of the hateful rhetoric surrounding this resolution centered around false claims that children are undergoing surgical procedures in Dane County, Sara Benzel, who is a spokesperson for UW-Health, confirmed to The Cap Times that “these procedures, including vaginoplasties and phalloplasties, are provided only to adults and require extensive psychiatric evaluation before a ‘letter of readiness’ signed by a mental health professional can ensure a patient is considered eligible….” She continued, “We support efforts that protect and advance the health of trans and gender nonbinary youth and enable us to provide needed care to our patients.”
County Board Supervisor Mike Bare outlined the many threats and accusations lobbed at him during the comment process for this resolution, but stood strong in his belief that this resolution will save lives. According to The Trevor Project’s website, LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and said that in a national survey done in 2022, 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. The Trevor Project website says fewer than 1 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth found their home to be gender affirming and safe, and research consistently finds that these youth report lower rates of attempting suicide when they have access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces, including health care.
Following the county resolution, the City of Madison voted unanimously on June 20 to declare the city a “sanctuary” for transgender and non-binary people, in a resolution penned by Dina Nina Martinez-Rutherford, who was elected onto the Madison City Council in the spring and is the city’s first elected transgender official. This City resolution is very similar to that of the County, and is largely symbolic unless and until state legislatures are able to pass anti-trans bills similar to those passing all throughout the county. In an article by the Wisconsin State Journal, Taylor Greene, a transgender man and Madison resident, is quoted as saying, “It’s very heartening to know that we have support. (The resolution) give(s) us a sense of safety and peace of mind knowing that whatever the right could do in the future will mean that we are protected as much as we can legally in Madison.”