VTGOP Chair Blows the Gender Panic Dog Whistle As Loudly As He Can

Paul Dame has struck again. The VTGOP chair knows that he can’t follow the national Republican playbook verbatim because it’d be a losing proposition in Vermont, so he tries to roll out shaded, nuanced, softened versions of the hard-right talking points.

This time, in his weekly email blast, he turned his attention to the big conservative bugaboo of the news cycle: GENDER PANIC!!!!!!!

The missive is entitled “Progressive Democrats Try To Strip Parental Consent.” In it, Dame waves the bloody shirt over H.659, a bill that would allow nonsurgical, gender-affirming care for minors without parental consent. The bill’s lead sponsors are Reps. Taylor Small and Tanya Vyhovsky, which Dame spells “Vyyhovsky.” Oops.

See, in the Vermont political environment, Dame can’t come right out and advocate a ban on gender-affirming treatment or discussion of gender in the schools because he’d risk alienating too many voters. So he has to aim lower. He sees “parental consent” as a hittable target. It’s also the VTGOP version of fighting abortion rights; they can’t possibly win on banning abortions, so they circle the wagons around parental consent.

But even though Dame has smoothed off the extreme edges of the argument, his piece is built on a lie and gets worse from there.

First of all, it’s impossible for this bill to go anywhere. It was introduced on January 18th, referred to the House Health Care Committee, and hasn’t budged since. We are now well past crossover in the second year of a biennium. Even if Health Care suddenly got a burr up its backside and rushed the bill through, it couldn’t possible advance in the House and also clear the Senate before adjournment. And, this being year two of the biennium, all the bills that haven’t cleared the full Legislature by adjournment are dead and buried.

For Dame to suddenly discover this bill in early April and trumpet it as an alleged Democratic priority is pure hyperbole, and Dame knows it. He chose this particular time to attack this particular bill because gender is the conservative bugaboo of the day. That’s all.

He also pulls the Republican trick of conflating any bill introduced by any Democrat or Progressive with the entire Dem/Prog caucus. That’s nonsense, because the vast majority of bills are in fact not supported by leadership and never get anywhere near an up-or-down vote. I could pull out a bunch of bills introduced by Vicki Strong or Art Peterson and try to taint Gov. Phil Scott by association, but that’d be dishonest.

(Oh, look: Strong co-sponsored a bill to establish fetal personhood at 24 weeks! She sponsored a bill to establish the absolute right to refuse medical treatment, including vaccines! She wants to bring back the religious exemption to all vaccines! She wants parental notification for minors seeking abortions! She wants to require a fetal ultrasound before all abortions!

Man, what a nut that Phil Scott must be. According to the Paul Dame Transitive Property, the governor supports all those bills. Shockin’.

Now let’s ignore the fatal timing issue and discuss the “merits” of Dame’s case. He calls the bill “crazy,” says he’s putting together some attack ads on the issue, and then the topper: “Every parent I know cares deeply about their children and wants what is best.”

Sorry, Paul, that’s simply not true. Many gender-nonconforming or questioning youth cannot count on a supportive response from parents. In fact, the literature indicates that roughly one-third of LGBTQIA+ youth get parental support, one-third get parental rejection, and one-third never tell their parents until they’ve become adults.

That’s two-thirds who (a) get blasted by their parents or (b) are too afraid to even tell their parents. Universal parental consent is a comforting theory, but it’s a terrible idea in practice.

As for the bill itself, I had a chat with a practitioner of my acquaintance. They thought the bill was positive for the most part, with some reservations about the extent of procedures allowed without parental consent or knowledge. Hormone blockers were fine, they thought; there’s a gray area of treatments that are only vaguely described in the bill. Their initial view was that the bill might need some tweaks.

Which is precisely what happens to every bill that gets anywhere in the Statehouse. It’s subject to amendment — usually in the weakening direction — at every step of the process. The introduction of a bill says nothing about what emerges from the sausage factory.

Again, Paul Dame is well aware of all this. But he’s willing to make shit up in hopes of angering some voters and gaining the slightest bit of a political edge. In that regard, he’s just as bad as his national counterparts.

For those who don’t subscribe to the VTGOP newsletter, I’ve cut-and-pasted the text of Dame’s message below.


Progressive Democrats Try to Strip Parental Consent

You won’t believe it until you read it yourself, but a group of TEN Progressive Democrats in the Legislature have sponsored a bill that would TAKE AWAY THE RIGHTS OF PARENTS to decide whether or not their kids would receive hormone blockers as young as 8 years old!

House Bill H.659 proposed to remove the requirement for parental consent for major life-changing treatments like puberty blockers or “other treatments” without consulting the parent AT ALL. Vermont needs a strong and united Republicans Party NOW more than EVER to stop this kind of crazy!

PLEASE donate immediately to help Republicans STOP THIS MADNESS! Make your contribution of $8, $10, $25 or $50 TODAY to help us fight this!

I have already taken the step to draft [sic] up some ads to go after these extreme anti-parent Progressive Democrats, but I need your help getting them out!

Even in suburban districts full of highly engaged parents, like the one Tanya Vyyhovsky represents, Democrats are on the attack to make sure that someone OTHER than parents get the final say on what happens to our elementary school kids! If you live in Essex – would you consider running against her? Let’s talk!

As a parent of young kids, this hits me especially hard! Maybe you are a parent or grand parent too. Every parent I know cares deeply about their children and wants what is best. But this bill would take away the right of the BEST parent in the state to say what was or was not appropriate for their kid! The parents is NOT even required to be NOTIFIED that any treatment has taken place – even after the fact.

If you are a parent or grandparent, please – JOIN ME to make a donation NOW. I just donated $8 because my oldest daughter is 8 years old. Will you chip in with $8, $10, $15 or whatever seems right to you?

Even your small dollar donation of $25 or $50 can help us plaster these ads all over facebook in the districts where these reps live, and help get the word out to their voters what kid of stuff they are trying to do! How much are your parental rights worth to you?

Paul Dame,
Chair, Vermont Republican Party


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