Metro Weekly

Texas Court Upholds Ban on Gender-Affirming Care

The Texas Supreme Court finds that lawmakers can regulate medical procedures for transgender minors as they see fit.

Texas state flag – Photo: Pete Alexopoulos

The Texas Supreme Court upheld a state law prohibiting doctors from prescribing gender-affirming care to transgender minors, placing unique restrictions on the rights of parents with transgender children.

Justice Rebeca Azipuru Huddle, writing on behalf of the 8-1 majority, found that while “fit parents” have a right to raise their children without government interference, that right is not absolute.

The ban on gender-affirming care was approved by Texas lawmakers on a largely party-line vote, with Republicans pushing for the restrictions.

Under the law, doctors are prohibited from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone therapy to youth suffering from gender dysphoria. Doctors who violate the law are subject to disciplinary action and will have their medical license revoked by the Texas Medical Board. 

Five families with transgender youth and three medical professionals filed a lawsuit last year to challenge the law, claiming it infringes on parents’ right to make decisions about their children’s health, which is guaranteed by the state constitution. They also claimed the ban violates doctors’ free speech rights and freedom to practice medicine, and is inherently discriminatory.

A district court judge initially blocked the law from taking effect, ruling that it impeded parental rights. Upon appeal, however, the Texas Supreme Court — which is composed of nine Republicans — overruled that judge and allowed the law to take effect on Sept. 1, 2023.

In January, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the law’s constitutionality before determining whether to send the case back to the Travis County District Court for a full trial on the merits.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the law strips away the rights of a certain subset of parents by targeting a specialized form of health care for a distinct group of people. Lawyers for the state claimed the law was needed to protect children.

In the court’s decision, issued on June 28, the majority said they were not weighing in on the best course of medical action for someone suffering from gender dysphoria, but determining whether the law was unconstitutional — an assertion that they found the plaintiffs had failed to prove.

“We conclude that the Legislature made a permissible, rational policy choice to limit the types of available medical procedures for children,” Huddle wrote on behalf of the court.

The decision comes as more than two dozen states have passed some form of restriction on gender-affirming treatments for minors.

Texas officials celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling, asserting that it protects children from being “indoctrinated” into “gender ideology” and from making irreversible decisions that could affect their ability to reproduce.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the ruling protects children by prohibiting them from accessing “puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and mutilative surgeries.”

“We will always defend children in Texas from these irreversible procedures,” Paxton wrote on X

LGBTQ advocates mourned the decision, with Ash Hall, an LGBTQ rights strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, saying the organization believed the court “made the wrong decision,” which would lead to “continued suffering,” as well as harassment and political persecution, of families raising transgender youth in the state.

Hall noted that it’s hypocritical to allow medications such as puberty blockers to be allowed for people with conditions like “precocious puberty,” while banning them for transgender youth.

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