Statements from Reps. Carolyn Eslick and Travis Couture on House passage of bill eroding parental rights

The state House today voted 57-39 to strip parents of the right to know where their children are in certain circumstances.

Senate Bill 5599 would exempt youth shelters and other similar organizations from parental notification requirements if a child enters their facility seeking or receiving “gender affirming” treatment or reproductive health care services.

Reps. Carolyn Eslick and Travis Couture – the ranking and assistant ranking members, respectively, on the House Human Services, Youth, and Early Learning Committee where the bill was heard – voted against the measure in committee and on the House floor.

“It’s critically important that we work to reduce teen suicide rates,” said Eslick, R-Sultan. “I don’t believe, however, that erecting barriers between young people and loving parents will achieve that goal. Instead, we should keep families together and help them work through these difficult issues together.”

“As the father of four, a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a legislator who swore to uphold the state and federal constitutions, I know that parental rights matter,” said Couture, R-Allyn. “These are pre-political rights upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court multiple times. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment secures the rights this bill seeks to eliminate. The state has no legitimate authority to get between moms and dads – who are providing a safe home – and their children. Period.” 

Under current law, minors can receive these services without parental knowledge or permission. This bill strictly deals with the duty of youth shelters to notify parents of the whereabouts of their children.  

Today, if a runaway youth enters a youth shelter without parental permission, the shelter is required to report the child’s location, unless there’s a compelling reason not to. In that case, the shelter must notify the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

“Compelling reasons” include, but are not limited to, circumstances that indicate that notifying a parent or legal guardian will subject a minor to abuse or neglect. This bill would add gender-affirming treatment and reproductive health care services as compelling reasons not to notify a parent.

House Republicans offered 12 amendments, including an amendment by Couture that would have required youth shelters to notify DCYF so the department could connect kids and their parents with appropriate counseling services. The majority party only accepted one of the 12 Republican amendments: Amendment 742, which requires the Office of Homeless Youth to gather data on the number of unsheltered homeless youths under age 18.

SB 5599, which was amended in the House, now heads to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov