Metro Weekly

Texas Judge Blocks Investigations of More Families with Trans Children

A judge has blocked state welfare agencies from launching "child abuse" investigations against PFLAG-member families and their children.

Texas state flag – Photo: Pete Alexopoulos.

A Texas state judge has blocked investigations into families with transgender children that belong to one of the largest LGBTQ advocacy groups in the country.

On Friday, District Judge Amy Clark Meachum, of Travis County, issued an injunction preventing the state from pursuing “child abuse” investigations into parents who affirm their transgender children’s identities and are believed to have allowed them to access gender-affirming health care treatments such as puberty blockers or hormones.

The ruling applies to all families who belong to PFLAG, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization, which has 17 chapters across Texas and more than 400 chapters across the country. In her ruling, Meachum said the PFLAG families have demonstrated a likelihood that they will suffer “probably, imminent, and irreparable injury” if the state Department of Family and Protective Services is allowed to continue with its investigations into transgender youth receiving doctor-recommended medical care and their parents.

Some of that harm includes potentially having transgender youth taken out of their parents’ custody and placed into foster care, as well as the parents potentially facing criminal charges and penalties. 

Meachum also found that DFPS did not begin investigating gender-affirming care as child abuse until after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order directing the agency to investigate parents who have allowed their children to receive transition-related care, including puberty blockers, which delay the onset of secondary sex characteristics.

Abbott based that order on an opinion issued by Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who stated that that all the forms of surgical and hormonal interventions for transgender youth constitute “abuse,” and violate minors’ fundamental right to procreation by subjecting them to treatments that can potentially cause sterilization.

Although DFPS began investigating several families with transgender children following Abbott’s directive, the Texas Supreme Court later found, in a partial victory for a group of transgender plaintiffs and advocates, that the governor had overstepped his authority. Additionally, on Friday, Meachum found that DFPS’s new rule requiring investigations of families with trans children was implemented despite not having been passed into law by the legislature or through the regular rule-making process.

In addition to protecting all PFLAG families from around Texas, Meachum’s order also applies to Adam and Amber Briggle and their transgender son, M.B., who were investigated on suspicion of allowing their son, who came out as trans in first grade, to access gender-affirming care. Meachum had previously issued an order blocking DFPS from investigating two other families — whose identities are being kept anonymous — who were targeted after a previous statewide injunction she had issued was struck down by the Texas Supreme Court.

According to The Dallas Morning News, the attorney general’s office indicated it will appeal Meachum’s latest ruling, as it did with her first statewide order. The challenge to DFPS investigations is scheduled to be heard at trial in June 2023. 

Meachum’s ruling comes on the heels of news that DFPS is continuing to investigate some families with trans children, with one state investigator even pulling a trans-identifying youth out of class and asking extremely personal, probing questions about his medical history and mental state. 

Lambda Legal, which is part of the legal team representing the PFLAG families, said that Meachum’s ruling has “grasped the magnitude and breadth of the continued harm” that Abbott’s directive and Paxton’s opinion pose to families with trans youth as long as DFPS embraces the idea of gender-affirming care as a form of child abuse.

“Families across Texas, since Gov. Abbott issued his directive, have lived in fear of the knock on the door. Even after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Abbott could not compel DFPS to conduct investigations, many families remained under investigation,” Nicholas Guillory, the Tyrone Garner Memorial Fellow at Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “Parents who love their transgender children and work with healthcare providers to support and affirm their well-being should be celebrated, rather than investigated as criminals as the state sought to do here.”

“We have lived in constant fear that our children would be traumatized AGAIN by CPS in an unjust, unconstitutional, ongoing assault on their civil rights,” Amber Briggle said in a tweet. “”Today’s ruling and injunction is like a giant exhale for all of us.”

“Once again a Texas court has stepped in to say what we knew from the beginning: State leaders have no business interfering with life-saving care essential for transgender youth,” Adri Perez, an policy and advocacy strategist with the ACLU of Texas, which is also representing the plaintiffs in the case. “We should trust doctors and every major medical association on how to support transgender youth.

“State leadership continues to attack parents for how they raise their kids — and all our plaintiffs are doing is providing unconditional love and support for children of all gender identities,” Perez added. “We will never stop fighting for the rights, safety, and dignity of transgender Texans.”

Brian K. Bond, the executive director of PFLAG National, also praised Meachum’s ruling, which he said protects trans kids from Abbott’s “unjust order.”

“PFLAG, our chapters in Texas and around the country are sources of support and safety from government harm because every LGBTQ+ person deserves respect, dignity and the right to access the care they need when they need it,” Bond said in a statement. 

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