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Sign reading "We love our trans youth"

A protester holds a sign that reads "We Love Our Trans Youth" during a rally at the Alabama State House on March 30, 2021 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo: Julie Bennett/Getty Images)

Texas Judge Halts 'Egregious' Investigations Into Parents of Trans Kids

"This is a critical victory and important first step in stopping these egregious and illegal actions from Texas officials."

Julia Conley

LGBTQ+ rights advocates expressed relief Wednesday—and vowed to continue fighting for transgender youths—after a district judge in Travis County, Texas halted Gov. Greg Abbott's attempt to investigate the families of children who receive gender-affirming healthcare.

Days after the state allegedly began investigating at least two parents who supported their daughter's gender-affirming care, the Travis County District Court granted a temporary restraining order to stop the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from continuing the practice.

A judge set a hearing for March 11 to consider whether Abbott's order should be permanently blocked.

"We appreciate the relief granted to our clients, but this should never have happened and is unfathomably cruel."

"This is a critical victory and important first step in stopping these egregious and illegal actions from Texas officials," said Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU, which joined two other groups in suing over the order this week. "We are relieved for our plaintiffs and ready to keep fighting to stop the governor, commissioner, and DFPS from inflicting further harm on trans people and their families and communities across Texas."

Basing his decision on a legal opinion issued by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, Abbott last month called on the DFPS to treat gender-affirming healthcare for minor children—including medications to delay puberty and hormone therapy—as child abuse.

Under the directive, teachers, medical providers, and other licensed professionals who are aware of a child receiving gender-affirming care could face criminal penalties if they don't report the child's family to DFPS.

The ACLU, ACLU of Texas, and Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit earlier this week on behalf of a parent who is employed by DFPS. The lawsuit alleges that after the parent disclosed to her supervisor that her child is transgender, Child Protective Services (CPS) visited the family's home on February 25 and interviewed the child and parents separately. The CPS representative also requested, and was denied, access to the child's medical records.

"We appreciate the relief granted to our clients, but this should never have happened and is unfathomably cruel," Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement. "Families should not have to fear being separated because they are providing the best possible healthcare for their children. The elected leaders and agencies of this state should not play politics with people's lives."

Gender-affirming care is endorsed and recommended by medical associations including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Research has shown that transgender youths whose families affirm their gender and support them in seeking gender-affirming healthcare are less likely to suffer from depression and to attempt suicide than children whose parents do not support them.

The AAP and Prevent Child Abuse America are among several national organizations condemning Abbott's order, with the latter group saying it "knows that providing necessary and adequate medical care to your child is not child abuse" and that actions like the governor's "threaten the safety and security of our nation's most vulnerable citizens—children and youth."

As the restraining order was handed down Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced steps it will take to protect transgender children and their families.

The Biden administration will release official guidance to state child welfare agencies "that makes clear that states should use their child welfare systems to advance safety and support for LGBTQI+ youth, which importantly can include access to gender-affirming care," said the agency.

"Families should not have to fear being separated because they are providing the best possible healthcare for their children."

HHS also clarified that "despite the Texas government's threat, healthcare providers are not required to disclose private patient information related to gender-affirming care."

"HHS will take immediate action if needed," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "I know that many youth and their supportive families are feeling scared and isolated because of these attacks... Any individual or family in Texas who is being targeted by a child welfare investigation because of this discriminatory gubernatorial order is encouraged to contact our Office for Civil Rights to report their experience."

But attacks on transgender youths are taking place across the country, with proposals to make gender-affirming healthcare a felony and forcing school personnel to report transgender children passing out of a House committee in Alabama on Wednesday.

"I don't know how many times today I've used the phrase 'this is a five alarm fire,'" said journalist Melissa Gira Grant on Wednesday, "but it remains correct as states are racing to outdo Texas."

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