Several families with transgender children are asking a judge to block a new Texas law that would stop minors from accessing many types of transition-related health care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapies.
The families argue the new law, which goes into effect Sept. 1, violates their parental rights by stopping them from providing medical care for their children and discriminates against transgender teens on the basis of sex. Several doctors have also joined the lawsuit, arguing the law interferes with their licensure and ability to practice medicine.
The lawsuit, which was filed in state court Wednesday, relies on legal arguments similar to those that have halted or blocked restrictions in several states, including Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee.
“The attack that Texas legislators and the governor have launched against transgender youth and their families and providers is stunning in its cruelty,” said Paul D. Castillo, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuit. “They are actively ignoring the science, dismissing best-practice medical care, intervening in a parent’s right to care for and love their child, and explicitly exposing trans youth in Texas to rampant discrimination. This law is not just harmful and cruel, it is life-threatening.”
All major medical associations support the use of puberty blockers and hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria, the distress someone feels when their gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. But in recent years, conservative groups have launched an all-out war on gender-affirming care, branding it “genital mutilation.”
Earlier this year, Republicans in the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 14, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in June. The law stops transgender minors from accessing puberty blockers, hormone therapies or transition-related surgeries, which medical experts say are rarely performed on children. Children already receiving this care are required to be weaned off in a “medically appropriate” manner, the law says, which many doctors say would be unethical.
“The science on gender dysphoria lacks sufficient high-quality evidence documented, and there’s a growing list of harms, established side effects that accompany patients,” state Rep. Tom Oliverson, a Cypress Republican who sponsored the bill in the House, said during debate on the bill. Oliverson has said the bill was written to withstand expected court challenges.
Although the law has yet to go into effect, health care options for transgender minors are already narrowing in Texas. In May, Houston-based Texas Children’s Hospital announced it would discontinue hormone therapy and other gender-affirming care treatments. The same month, adolescent health specialists at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin parted ways with the hospital after Attorney General Ken Paxton announced an investigation into the hospital.
Some families have decided to leave Texas to ensure their children can continue to receive health care.
“Because my daughter might need puberty blockers in the next few months, I am temporarily relocating out of state with her and my other child,” said one of the plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuit as Mary Moe, who is the mother of a 9-year-old transgender daughter. “I am heartbroken to have to take my children away from their home and their father, even temporarily. But I know that Texas is not a safe place for my daughter if this law forbids her access to this care.”
See here for some background on the now-blocked Arkansas law, though after that a panel at the Sixth Circuit allowed Tennessee’s ban to take effect; this made the two judges on the panel who voted that way to be the first federal judges to find this kind of law to be constitutional. See here for my previous update on the Texas law, which was high on my list of laws that would draw lawsuits. And finally see here for a copy of the complaint, which was filed in state court and not federal court, which looks to me to be different than the actions taken in the other states for which there has been a ruling so far. I’m not sure why this route was chosen, but there’s nothing to stop other plaintiffs from filing in federal court as well.
Not much to say here that hasn’t already been said. This law is extremely hurtful to a group of already marginalized people, it is based on fear and lies, and it’s both a significant step back in civil rights as well as a stark reminder that “parental rights” just means “I get to do what I want with my kids but you have to do what I say with yours”. I think we can predict how the early rounds of this will go, so as always it’s just a matter of what the State Supreme Court says. We’ll find out soon enough. Here are the press releases from the ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal, both of which contain multiple quotes from plaintiff families. The 19th, TPR, the Chron, the Texas Signal, Reform Austin, the Current, and the Press have more.