Words vs action, this is what we are looking at this week as Pennsylvania State Senator Sharif Street voted in committee to advance a proposal to ban essential health services to transgender children under the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The vote was 14-1, with only Senator Larry Farnese (D-Phila.) voting against the anti-trans amendment to CHIP.
While Street, the Democratic chair of the Senate’s Banking and Insurance committee, has been a vocal opponent against the amendment, he decided, for political reasons, to vote “YES” on language that would deny our trans-children “reimbursement for gender or sex reassignment surgery or gender or sex transition services, including, but not limited to, physician’s services, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, prescribed drugs or counseling services related to such surgery or services.”
Micah Mahjoubian, Street’s policy director, was quoted in G Philly, as saying the “he (Street) made the best position to appeal to moderate Republicans in order to get anything accomplished . . . 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.”
When I questioned Mahjoubian, a long time LGBTQ+ political activist, on this vote, he stated that “Street led the caucus in making several votes to stop the amendment, worked closely with many advocates, and urged the governor to publicly state his intention to veto the bill to help us in the fight. It’s insane that you are attacking the senator that worked the hardest all week long to fight this. I did not advise him on any vote to make. I didn’t have to. He was immediately working since last Tuesday to stop this.”
Well, actions speak louder than words and unfortunately Street’s anti-trans vote, for political expediency, will linger so many years to come.
Liberty City Democrats, who indorsed Street, wrote the following, “Pennsylvania’s Senate GOP held up CHIP funding that is essential for children’s health care in order to express animus toward transgender people. This is UNACCEPTABLE and another example of their unrelenting assault on our community. We will not accept any move to treat our trans youth as second class citizens. Gov. Wolf has vowed to veto any legislation that contains that language and we’ll fight against it.”
What was this Senator thinking? Why did he not join Farnese in rejecting the amendment with its violently anti-trans language? Surely, the vote would have passed without Street’s vote.
Clearly, Street made a bad judgement call, but rather than own the mistake and publicly apologize to the transgender community, and the larger LGBTQ+ community, he simply defends his actions by telling us how he has forcefully opposed the change in CHIP.
Again, actions speak louder than words.
There is no walking back this ill-advised vote and Street, with all his words needs to be held accountable.
Street has raised a good amount of money from the LGBTQ+ community and there is the rub. People should demand return of all contributions that made to this senator, and Liberty City should rescind its endorsement, and Mahjoubian, who claims to not have advised Street on this vote, should be replaced. He did not serve the senator or the trans community well here.
This egregious vote will not be forgotten by our community anytime soon. Street fanned the flames of anti-trans bigotry and must be held accountable for it regardless of his words, his actions spoke volumes.