Metro Weekly

Federal Judge Blocks Idaho Trans Health Care Ban

Judge issues temporary injunction preventing officials from enforcing law barring minors from accessing gender-affirming treatments.

Idaho State Capitol building – Photo: Tamanoeconomico, via Wikimedia

A federal judge has temporarily blocked Idaho state officials from enforcing a law preventing minors from accessing gender-affirming health care treatments just days before the ban was slated to go into effect.

Signed by Republican Gov. Brad Little in April, the law prohibits doctors from prescribing hormones or puberty blockers to transgender-identifying youth. The law also prohibits gender confirmation surgery for minors, though there has been no evidence that such surgeries are being performed on minors in the state.

Doctors and health professionals who violate the law can be charged with a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

On December 26, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill handed down a preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs — two Idaho transgender minors and their parents — are likely to prevail in proving that the law violates their right to equal protection and due process as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, reports the Idaho Statesman

“Time and again, these cases illustrate that the 14th Amendment’s primary role is to protect disfavored minorities and preserve our fundamental rights from legislative overreach,” Winmill wrote in his order. “That was true for newly freed slaves following the Civil War. It was true in the 20th century for women, people of color, interracial couples and individuals seeking access to contraception. And it is no less true for transgender children and their parents in the 21st century.”

The two families had initially sued Attorney General Raul Labrador, Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts, and members of the Idaho Code Commission. Winmill dismissed the members of the Code Commission, who publish state laws from the case.

The law, set to take effect on January 1, will now be placed on hold until a higher court overrules Winmill.

Labrador has said he plans to appeal the injunction.

“The federal judiciary once endorsed the eugenics movement and forced sterilization of intellectually disabled people,” Labrador said in a statement. “Similarly, Judge Winmill’s ruling places children at risk of irreversible harm. History will not look kindly at this decision. We are taking immediate action to appeal this decision and are confident that correction will come.”

Governor Little claimed that the proposed law was necessary to protect minors from treatments that can “irreversibly damage their healthy bodies.”

But most major medical associations say that denying trans-identifying youth access to gender-affirming care can exacerbate feelings of gender dysphoria and isolation, potentially fueling heightened feelings of depression, anxiety, or even suicidal ideation.

Advocates of gender-affirming care argue that the effects of puberty blockers are reversible, and simply allow minors to “pause” the onset of secondary sex characteristics while they figure out their gender identity and decide, at a later point, whether to pursue a full gender transition. 

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs celebrated the temporary reprieve. 

“This judicial decision is a much-needed ray of hope for trans people amid a years-long onslaught against their rights to access health care and ability to navigate the world around them,” Leo Morales, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, said in a statement.

“Everyone should be free to live and thrive in their authentic identity, which means transgender people should not be shut out of accessing medically sound health care.”

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