Idaho governor got thousands of calls urging action on transgender health care bill

Since passing both chambers, governor’s office received more calls in favor of the bill than against it

By: - April 4, 2023 5:17 pm
Idaho State Capitol building in Boise

The Idaho State Capitol building in Boise on May 5, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Mountain Sun)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little had until Wednesday morning to decide whether to sign or veto one of the state’s most controversial bills this session. He decided late Tuesday to sign it into law, after his office was flooded with calls. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.

House Bill 71 bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth, including puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries. (Surgeries already are not performed on transgender youth, Idaho health care providers have said in their testimony.) It also makes it a felony for any medical practitioner to help a minor seek gender-affirming treatment. 

Little received the bill Thursday, after it passed in the Idaho House of Representatives in a 58-12 vote and in a 22-12 vote in the Idaho Senate. He had until 10:35 a.m. Wednesday to make a decision. 

Little’s press secretary, Madison Hardy, told the Idaho Capital Sun that since both chambers passed the bill, Little’s office was inundated with calls urging the governor to sign or veto it.

“The Governor’s Office regularly receives calls, emails, and letters from constituents about pending legislation throughout the session,” she said in an email. “House Bill 71 has stimulated more constituent contacts – calls, emails, letters – than any piece of legislation this year.”

As of Tuesday morning, Hardy said, the governor’s office had received more than 14,800 emails and calls in favor of the bill and more than 6,500 calls and emails asking Little to veto the bill. Of that number, 3,200 were phone calls in favor and 1,500 were phone calls against the bill. 

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Hardy said that the high volume of calls prevented staff members from contacting those interested in matters unrelated to House Bill 71. So, to free up the phone lines, the governor’s office worked with its information technology services to implement an automated phone tree system to allow callers to record their vote without talking to a staff member. 

One of the difficulties the office faced was keeping track of how many of those calls came from Idaho constituents or from people in other states, Hardy said. 

“While our office requests ZIP code information on our email form, there is no mechanism to verify caller residency,” she said. “Staff members regularly asked the caller for their ZIP code but could not confirm the caller was an Idaho resident with absolute certainty.”

Conservative groups urge Idahoans to voice support for House Bill 71

At least two conservative organizations that have spearheaded Idaho legislative efforts have urged their supporters to contact the governor’s office in support of House Bill 71.

Blaine Conzatti, president of the conservative Christian Idaho Family Policy Center, told the Idaho Capital Sun that his organization has launched a “massive grassroots mobilization campaign” to encourage Idahoans to contact the governor’s office in support of the bill.

So far, we’ve had nearly 2,500 Idaho residents send emails to Gov. Little through our web-based Action Center, which was promoted through our email newsletter and social media advertisements,” he said in an email Tuesday. “Additionally, we launched a nearly $5,000 robocall with an automatic patch-through to the governor’s phone lines.”

In addition to Conzatti’s organization, the Idaho Freedom Foundation organized a separate petition on its website urging Idahoans to contact Little’s office.  

Between 1p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, the governor’s office received 21 automated emails from a petition from the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s website, according to emails obtained in response to a public records request by the Idaho Capital Sun. In the automated email, the organization calls transgender health care for minors “barbaric.”

Community organization worked on campaign to veto bill

Add the Words Idaho Executive Director Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln told the Idaho Capital Sun that her organization promoted an education campaign to inform Idahoans about the bill and urged them to reach out to Little to veto the bill. 

“Ever since it passed the Senate floor, I have fielded several phone calls from parents who are frantic and near hysterics when they call me — in tears, terrified for their trans teen and the impacts of this bill and what will happen to them and their family if they don’t have access to the medication for their kids,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s terrifying, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

Gaona-Lincoln said people from age 13 to age 80 have contacted her asking how they could get involved to support the campaign’s efforts. 

“Taking somebody off their medications isn’t going to keep them from being trans,” Gaona-Lincoln said. “This bill is going to be a catalyst for a health crisis, not only because physicians are going to leave the state, but it’s going to be kind of a crisis mode for our trans youth that are not going to have access to the care that they need and deserve.”


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Mia Maldonado
Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d'Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and international political economy.