A Texas judge has issued a temporary order blocking the state from investigating the parents of a transgender teenager over gender-confirmation treatments.
District Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued the order halting an investigation by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) on 2 March, but, according to reports from NPR, stopped short of preventing the state from looking into other reports about children receiving similar care.
As part of the order, Meachum wrote that the parents and the 16-year-old teen girl “face the imminent and ongoing deprivation of their constitutional rights, the potential loss of necessary medical care, and the stigma attached to being the subject of an unfounded child abuse investigation.”
In February, we brought you the news that Texas Governor Greg Abbott had written to the DFPS, comparing gender-affirming care for trans youth to “child abuse” and ordering the child welfare agency to investigate parents who allow their children to undergo such procedures.
The letter went even further by advising “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children,” including teachers and doctors, to “report such child abuse” and said those who don’t should be subject to criminal records.
The directive came just one day after Ken Paxton, the attorney general in Texas, who like Abbott, is also a Republican, issued a nonbinding legal opinion that such procedures are a violation of existing Texas state law.
In Wednesday’s order, Judge Amy Clark Meachum wrote:
“From the facts set forth in Plaintiffs’ Petition, and the declarations attached thereto, the Court finds Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury unless Defendants are immediately restrained from enforcing the Governor’s letter and the DFPS statement. … The Court finds Jane Doe has been placed on administrative leave at work and is at risk of losing her job and that Jane, John and Mary Doe face the imminent and ongoing deprivation of their constitutional rights, the potential loss of necessary medical care, and the stigma attached to being the subject of an unfounded child abuse investigation. The Court further finds that if placed on the Child Abuse Registry, Jane Doe could lose the ability to practice her profession and both Jane and John Doe could lose their ability to work with minors and volunteer in their community”.
Judge Meachum set a hearing for 11 March, temporarily blocking the enforcement of Abbott’s instruction.
On Tuesday (2 March), the parents sued over the investigation in a suit filed by The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal on behalf of the teen, which marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott’s directive. The lawsuit does not identify the family by name.
Brian Klosterboer, ACLU of Texas attorney, said in a statement: “We appreciate the relief granted to our clients, but this should never have happened and is unfathomably cruel,”
Going on to say: “Families should not have to fear being separated because they are providing the best possible health care for their children.”
Paul Castillo, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, said: “We are relieved that – at least for now – the threat of a child abuse investigation is no longer hanging over the heads of the family members in this case”.
The ruling came as President Joe Biden’s administration announced new steps to protect transgender children and their families as response to Abbott’s order, during his State of the Union Address.
Mr Biden said: ‘The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong. As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your President, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.’
However, the battle is far from won as the DFPS told Reuters on Tuesday that the agency had, at that time, opened at least three child welfare inquiries subject to the directive from Abbott ordering investigations of parents whose children undergo gender-affirming procedures.