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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 17, 2023

Washington law doesn’t take minors from parents who refuse them gender-transition surgery

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  • The law is aimed at providing shelter for homeless youths seeking gender-affirming care.

  • The law does not allow the government to remove minors from their parents if the parents refuse to allow them to get such care.


A headline about a new Washington state law claimed that if parents there don’t agree to gender-transition surgery for their children, their children could be taken away.

"Washington Democrat Governor Inslee signs controversial bill allowing government to take away minors from parents if they refuse to agree to gender transition surgery," read the headline, referring to Gov. Jay Inslee, on The Gateway Pundit.

The conservative website, which often spreads misinformation, did not reply to our email

A link to the headline was shared on Facebook and was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a screenshot of a similar headline from another website, the American Tribune. "Washington passes bill allowing the state to TAKE CHILDREN AWAY FROM PARENTS that do not consent to their child's gender transition surgeries," Trump tweeted. 

The law, signed by Inslee on May 9, does not address parental custody of minor children, or taking children from their parents. 

And it does not allow children to be removed if parents refuse to consent to gender-transition surgery, said law professor Deirdre Bowen, director of Seattle University’s Family Law Center.

The law aims to provide shelter for homeless youths who are seeking reproductive or gender-affirming health care and are estranged from their parents. 

The law states as its rationale that "homelessness among transgender youth can further endanger an already at-risk population." 

The law reads: "The legislature intends to remove barriers to accessing temporary, licensed shelter accommodations for youth seeking certain protected health care services." 

Shelters in Washington generally are required to notify parents within 72 hours that they are housing their minor children. But there are exceptions for "compelling reasons."

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Previous law allowed shelters to opt not to notify parents, and instead notify the state Department of Children, Youth and Families if, for example, "notifying the parent or legal guardian will subject the minor to abuse or neglect." The department could then try to reunify the family. 

Under the new law, "compelling reasons" was expanded to include minors seeking "protected health care." That is defined as "gender-affirming treatment" or reproductive health care, such as abortion.

The state Department of Children, Youth and Families is still required to contact the parents and offer to reunite them with their children, Bowen said.

"Parents are free to decline all offers and come and collect their child from the shelter at any time," she said. "The only thing that isn’t clear is the time frame in which the state agency must make a good faith effort to contact the parents."

Gender-affirming services, as defined by Washington state law, encompass more than surgery. It includes treatment for gender dysphoria and products or services prescribed by a healthcare provider "to support and affirm the individual's gender identity." 

The American Psychiatric Association describes gender dysphoria as psychological distress experienced by some transgender people "that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity."

Washington state Sen. Marko Liias, a Democrat who is the legislation’s primary sponsor, told The Associated Press the bill is aimed at "young people who were kicked out of their house because of their identity" and to provide them housing while they seek gender-affirming care.

Under Washington law, a child can be generally removed from their parents for up to 72 hours if the child is in danger of being harmed, or has already been seriously abused or neglected. If the child is not returned in that period, the matter must be reviewed in court. In very serious cases of abuse or neglect, a court can terminate parental rights. 

More than a half-dozen states, including New Jersey, Vermont and Colorado, have passed or are considering similar bills or executive orders around transgender health care, civil rights and other legal protections, the AP reported.

We’ve seen other trans youth-related legislation fuel similarly misleading claims about parental custody and state-sanctioned kidnapping.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign  legislation that broadly prohibits gender-affirming care for transgender minors, leading to claims that the government could "kidnap" transgender children from their parents. The bill does not grant the state unilateral power to "kidnap" or take custody of a child receiving gender-affirming care from a family, but it does change how custody disputes between parents are resolved.

A California law that took effect in September provides legal protections for parents fleeing states that have banned gender-affirming health care for youths. The law does not permit the state to take custody of a child if one parent disagrees with a child’s decision to seek gender-affirming health care, as some claims have suggested.​ 

The Washington law does not allow "government to take away minors from parents if they refuse to agree to gender transition surgery." We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, May 10, 2023

Gateway Pundit, "Washington Democrat Governor Inslee signs controversial bill allowing government to take away minors from parents if they refuse to agree to gender transition surgery," (archived) May 10, 2023

Washington State Legislature, "Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5599," accessed May 12, 2023

Washington State Legislature, "RCW 13.32A.082," accessed May 15, 2023

Washington State Legislature, "Gender affirming care services—Prohibited discrimination," accessed May 15, 2023

Associated Press, "Trans minors protected from parents under Washington law," May 9, 2023

Associated Press, "Fact focus: Posts distort Washington estranged minors law," April 19, 2023, "Online claims misrepresent Washington bill aimed at runaway transgender youth," May 3, 2023

USA Today, "Fact check: Donald Trump Jr. and conservatives spread false claims about Washington bill, gender surgery," April 26, 2023

PolitiFact, "No, Florida can’t ‘kidnap’ trans kids under proposed law, but it does affect custody disputes," May 4, 2023

PolitiFact, "New California law on transgender youths doesn’t remove a parent’s custody," Oct. 10, 2022

California Legislature, "Senate Bill No. 107," Oct. 3, 2022

Florida Senate, "CS/SB 254: Treatments for sex reassignment," accessed May 15, 2023

Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, "What happens once abuse and neglect is reported?", accessed May 15, 2023

Facebook, Michael Knowles post, May 12, 2023, Donald Trump Jr. tweet, (archived) April 15, 2023

Email, Deirdre Bowen, Moccasin Lake Foundation endowed chair in family law and director of the Family Law Center at Seattle University, May 15, 2023

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Washington law doesn’t take minors from parents who refuse them gender-transition surgery

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