Pro-LGBTQ state Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), the Democratic chair of the Senate’s Banking and Insurance committee, voted last week to approve an anti-transgender amendment to a statewide bill geared at reauthorizing the CHIP program’s healthcare coverage for low-income children. The amendment, which passed out of committee on a 14-1 vote, would prohibit the CHIP program from covering gender-reassignment surgery or gender transition services, including outpatient hospital visits, counseling, and prescription drugs.
The CHIP bill, HB 1388, was introduced in the House in May and passed in a 194-0 vote in June. Last week, Sen. Donald White (R-Indiana County), the Banking and Insurance committee GOP chairman, authored the anti-transgender amendment ahead of the Senate’s consideration of the bill. “It is completely inappropriate to use state funds to pay for sex change operations for children,” White said on his official website. “I believe that is a position that is strongly endorsed by a vast majority of Pennsylvanians.”
The bill as amended was then referred to the Appropriations committee, which passed it out on a 23-3 vote. It may reach the floor as early as Wednesday.
Longtime LGBTQ rights advocate Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) was the sole dissenting vote on the Banking and Insurance committee. “In Pennsylvania, right now, we still discriminate against people for who they love,” Farnese said in an interview with Penn Live. “We should not take the next step and discriminate against children for who they are.”
That’s why it comes as a surprise that Street, who has received endorsements from Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and sponsored a resolution recognizing the month of June 2017 as “LGBT Pride Month” in Pennsylvania, supported the amendment along with three other Democrats (Lisa Boscola, James Brewster, and Christine Tartaglione).
Oddly enough, Street has taken to social media to call for others to support the transgender community against the amendment that he, too, voted in favor of:
“He made the best position to appeal to moderate Republicans in order to get anything accomplished,” said Street’s policy director, Micah Mahjoubian. “We have to make compromising decisions that make horrible bills not as bad. … CHIP is important — if there is no reauthorization of the program at all, trans kids can’t even get other services. The vote was a responsible act of governing.”