The state of Texas and several state legal and health officials are being sued over a recently passed law punishing doctors who prescribe gender-affirming treatments to minors suffering from gender dysphoria.
The lawsuit challenging the law, also known as SB 14, was brought by several legal advocacy organizations on behalf of five Texas families with transgender children, three doctors specializing in transgender care, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization, and an organization for LGBTQ health professionals.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs claim the law violates the Texas Constitution in several ways: by infringing on parents’ right to make medical decisions they believe are in the best interest of their children; by interfering with physicians’ right to occupational freedom; and by discriminating against trans-identifying minors, based on their sex and transgender status, in violation of their right to equal protection under the law.
The defendants in the case are asking the court to issue a temporary injunction to block Texas from seeking to enforce the law beginning on Sept. 1, the date the act takes effect. They are also asking for a post-trial permanent injunction barring state officials from seeking to enforce the law, and for the courts to declare the law, in its entirety, to be unconstitutional.
Additionally, the plaintiffs are requesting that the courts “retain jurisdiction after judgement” in order to impose punishments or penalties if state officials attempt to violate any order blocking them from enforcing the law, and are asking for compensation for legal costs and attorneys’ fees.
Under the law, minors will be barred from receiving any treatment intended to assist a young person in transitioning medically, such as puberty blockers, hormones, or gender confirmation surgery. Physicians who recommend such treatments will have their licenses revoked, and doctors shall not be reimbursed for any procedures or treatments prohibited under the law.
“To be clear, SB 14 is arbitrary, irrational and oppressive,” Paul Castillo, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, one of the legal groups, representing the plaintiffs, said in a conference call with reporters last week, according to Austin-based NBC affiliate KXAN.
“There is no lawful justification for interfering with the medical necessary provision of care that promotes the health and well being of transgender youth,” Castillo added. “Trans Texans and their parents have the right to access health care that they need, just like everyone else. Like we’ve seen in similar lawsuits already, we aim to stop SB 14 in its entirety and block the law from ever going into effect.”
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year, is nearly identical to bills that have passed in nearly 20 other states with Republican-controlled legislatures. Thus far, most of the laws that have been challenged in courts have been met with resistance. Last month, a federal judge struck down an Arkansas law prohibiting gender-affirming care as unconstitutional. Similar restrictions in Alabama, Florida, and Indiana have been temporarily blocked from taking effect, while Oklahoma’s ban cannot be enforced under a binding non-enforcement agreement.
Two other bans, in Tennessee and Kentucky, were allowed to take effect despite legal challenges after the conservative 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to uphold a lower court judge’s order blocking the laws from taking effect. The appeals court declined to offer arguments on the law’s constitutionality, opining that it was better to defer to legislators on “emerging policy issues” like gender-affirming care.
The bill’s main sponsors insist that the measure will withstand any court challenge.
“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 (R-Cypress), who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, said during debate on the bill.
Oliverson and State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), who authored the bill, released a joint statement defending the law’s constitutionality.
“We believe that extraordinary interventions require extraordinary justification, and that justification doesn’t exist in this case,” the statement read. “The State of Texas maintains its stance that there is insufficient evidence supporting continued medical experimentation on children.”
Although Texas’s law has not yet gone into effect, physicians and hospitals have begun rolling back health care options for transgender minors in anticipation of the law. In May, the Houston-based Texas Children’s Hospital announced it would discontinue hormone therapy and other gender-affirming treatments. Adolescent health specialists at Austin-based Dell Children’s Medical Center severed ties with the hospital after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced an investigation into the hospital, reports the Texas Tribune.
Emmett Schelling, the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, warned that the law, in addition to eliminating care options for transgender minors, could also limit the types of care or — if physicians choose to move their practice to other states — could result in a dearth of health provider options for transgender adults.
One of the parent plaintiffs in the case, going by the pseudonym Mary Moe, said she is so concerned about how her nine-year-old daughter, Maeve, might one day fare under the new law that she is relocating outside of Texas with Maeve and her other child, while her husband stays in Texas. This way, she can ensure Maeve has access to puberty blockers if she needs them.
“We all intend to return and reunite in our home once it is safe for Maeve to receive this care in the state,” Moe said. “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.”
Another plaintiff, 16-year-old transgender Texan Nathan Noe, said that they have developed a much more positive outlook on life and no longer feel depressed or dysphoric since starting hormone therapy. Even thought the law does provide a grace period for minors who have already started gender-affirming treatments to be weaned off them, Noe lamented the idea of perhaps being forced to leave Texas and uproot their entire life in order to be able to continue receiving hormones.
“The idea of growing up as a woman felt so indescribably and inexplicably wrong, and I couldn’t picture myself as a young teenage girl. I was constantly unhappy,” Noe said in a statement. “Being on testosterone has tremendously improved all aspects of my life. I am now able to focus on all of the positives of my life and experience my teenage years to the fullest. I am able to socialize and balance schoolwork without thinking about my gender all the time.
“I love Texas. This is my community. This is where my family lives,” Noe added. This is the place I grew up and I do not want to leave it because my government has decided to attack people like me.”
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