News - April 14, 2023 - by Ray Hagar
State Sen. Melanie Scheible, D-Las Vegas, described herself as an ally of the transgender community during a Nevada Newsmakers interview this week, saying there's a general lack of public understanding when it comes to transgender issues.
"I think that the majority of the population, especially in Nevada, wants to be accepting and wants to be compassionate. But there is definitely a gap in understanding," she told host Sam Shad.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation estimates there are more than 2 million transgender people in the U.S.
"You know, they want to be seen and treated as the gender that they know they are internally," Scheible said.
Scheible called on other allies of the transgender community to lead the way in helping further that understanding.
"I think it is really confusing to a lot of people," Scheible said. "And I think that it is on this group that we call ourselves -- allies -- you know, cisgender people to continue to talk about gender identity and to continue to bring our friends and family into those conversations."
"I think what is not appropriate is to put all of the burden on people who are trans or gender non-conforming to educate the public," Scheible said.
"It's important for those of us who have that one degree of separation to take a minute out of our day and when we hear somebody making an inaccurate statement or claim about transgender people, to say, 'Hey, actually this is what is more likely going on,' or 'This is a more common understanding' or 'This is a more appropriate way to to discuss this issue,'" she said.
Scheible discussed the lack of understanding about the transgender community while outlining her bill (SB 163) to help transgender people get equal treatment with health insurance companies.
"One of my favorite examples is when we think of cisgender men, you know, men who have body parts that we associate with men, who need a prostate exam every year," she said.
"There are some women, transgender women, who still need a prostate exam every year for their health to ensure that they don't develop cancers," Scheible said. "But some insurance companies may deny a prostate exam for a person whose health insurance documentation reflects that they're a woman. So what SB 163 does is, it says that any services that you provide on your plan, you have to provide to people, regardless of their gender or gender identity, or if a medical professional says that it's medically necessary for them."
The bill includes language that would bar insurance companies from operating in Nevada if they don't comply. Public policies, specifically Medicaid, are included in the bill.
"It could be something like hormone treatment or hormone therapies that we already make available to women, cisgender women who are going through menopause, but that trans men or trans women may also want," Scheible said. "And so the purpose of the bill is to ensure that everybody on their health insurance plan is able to receive the care that their doctors (prescribe).
"It's not elective. It's not, you know, pick and choose from a menu," she said. "It's if your doctor says that this is medically necessary for you, then the health insurance plan has to cover it."
The bill has been approved by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. It now must win overall Senate approval with a floor vote before it moves to the Assembly.
The emergence of LBGTQ+ issues and concerns does not necessarily mean a sexual revolution is upon us, Scheible said.
"I'm not sure that equating sex and gender is always the right way to go," she said. "We're seeing people who are struggling with their identities or coming into their gender identities, that sometimes is very separate from their sexual orientation or identity.
"It is more about how this person feels in their own body, the kind of way that they want to move through the world, the way they want to be seen, and not just the sexual way, but in a professional way, in a platonic way with friends and family," Scheible said.
Reproductive rights legislation
Scheible is also a leader in the Democrats' legislative push to be proactive against the nationwide anti-abortion rights movement.
"So we talked a lot about reproductive rights after the (U.S. Supreme Court) Dobbs decision came down last year and recognized that Nevada has really been a leader in protecting everybody's right to choose," she said.
She is a primary sponsor -- along with almost 40 other Democratic lawmakers -- for an amendment to be added to the state Constitution for a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” that includes abortion, pre-natal and post-natal care, birth control and infertility care, according to the Nevada Current.
In 1990, Nevada voters approved the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and beyond that if it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
That right is largely protected from legislative action because the 1990 referendum can only be changed by voters in a general election. The constitutional amendment, however, would provide rock-solid legal protections, Scheible said.
"We say that we have a constitutional right to choose here in Nevada and that's true," Scheible said. "And yet we don't actually have a provision in the Constitution that protects the right to choose.
"And so what SJR7 does is it strengthens that constitutional protection by actually inserting language into the Constitution that says that every person -- regardless of their age, sex, gender, sexuality, gender identity or orientation -- that they have the right to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom here in the state of Nevada," she said.
"So that when we say that we have a constitutionally protected right to choose and the right to reproductive freedom in Nevada, we literally mean that it is in the Constitution," Scheible said.
Another abortion-related bill, SB131, would take former Gov. Steve Sisolak’s executive order protecting out-of-state abortion patients and health care providers who provide abortions and lock it into state law. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro is the leader on this bill although Scheible is a primary sponsor.
Scheible said the bill would ensure, "that anybody who came to Nevada to access reproductive services here, that they weren't able to access elsewhere, would not be extradited, would not be returned to another state by law enforcement officials to face criminal charges."
When asked if other states would actually try to extradite a woman having an abortion in Nevada, Scheible said:
"I think that it is something that other states are trying to do," she said. "I think that it is important that we respond appropriately by providing those protections in law for people who come to the state of Nevada to seek reproductive health care that is legal in Nevada."
Scheible said abortion is a national issue, not a states rights issue.
"Every person, regardless of where they live, should have access to affordable health care and reproductive health care and the health care that they need," she said. "And I don't think that any state government or any politician should stand in a person's way. "
Thanks Gov. Lombardo
Scheible also reports that Republican Joe Lombardo has tried to meet with each of the 63 lawmakers in the Democratically-controlled Nevada Legislature.
"So I've been really pleased that the governor made an effort to meet with every single legislator," she said. "I had a nice conversation with him back in mid-March. And I think that we're all looking for places where we can find common ground and how easy that will be remains to be seen."