Texas Supreme Court issues mixed ruling on trans care for minors

The Texas Supreme Court issued a multi-part ruling on investigations into transgender care for minors on Friday that won both sides a victory.

The court’s decision ends an investigation into the family of a transgender minor, but overturns a statewide injunction blocking investigations into the parents of other transgender youths. The court also ruled that Governor Greg Abbott had no authority over such investigations.

In February, Abbott, a Republican, ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the state’s child welfare agency, to investigate child abuse complaints filed against parents who may provide their transgender children with gender-affirming medical care.

One of the agency’s first investigations involved one of its own employees, who had a transgender child.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal sued on behalf of the employee, called Jane Doe, and Megan Mooney, a psychologist who treats transgender youth. In March, a federal judge upheld a statewide injunction barring all investigations under Abbott’s order.

Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed, and the Texas Supreme Court on Friday overturned the statewide injunction. He upheld part of the injunction — only blocking the investigation into Doe’s family, though the state opened a total of nine investigations.

Initial reports of the Texas Supreme Court ruling said further investigations could resume, but the ruling did not explicitly state this. Judge Jimmy Blacklock wrote in the opinion that Abbott and Paxton had no authority to order the child protective services agency to investigate the parents of transgender youth.

“The Governor and Attorney General were certainly within their rights to express their legal and policy opinions on this subject, but the DFPS was not obligated by law to follow them,” he wrote. “[T]The Legislature gave DFPS, not the governor or attorney general, the legal responsibility to “promptly and thoroughly investigate a report of child abuse or neglect.”

Both sides claimed the decision as a victory.

The ACLU, ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal said in a joint statement that the decision is “a victory for our clients and the rule of law.”

“The court rejected the Attorney General’s arguments that our lawsuit should be dismissed and affirmed that the DFPS was under no obligation to follow the Governor’s directive or the Attorney General’s non-binding opinion,” the court said. groups, according to a press release.

Paxton also celebrated the decision.

“I just got a victory for families against the gender ideology of doctors, big pharma, clinics trying to ‘trans’ confused, innocent children,” he wrote in a tweet on Friday. . He added that the Texas Supreme Court had “gave the green light to investigations” that lower courts with Democratic-appointed justices had frozen.

Even though the statewide injunction is no longer in place, the Supreme Court’s decision could affect other investigations if they were to resume.

Karen Loewy, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, said the state Supreme Court supported the finding that the state’s investigation into the Doe family would cause irreparable harm.

“By giving credit to this finding of irreparable harm, it essentially means that whenever the agency investigates a family solely on the basis that they are providing their children with the provider-recommended, medically recognized program of care , the same irreparable harm occurs. “, said Loewy. “So if this policy is illegal towards our customers, it is illegal towards any other families in Texas that DFPS might try to target.

A family currently under investigation prepares for what could happen next. Amber Briggle, whose 13-year-old son is transgender, reacted to the court’s decision on Twitter.

“The injunction protected my family from further investigation, said Briggle, who lives near Dallas. mentioned. “Now that it’s been cancelled, CPS may be knocking on my door again any minute.”

Houston’s mother, Katie L., said her 15-year-old son, who is a trans man, heard about the court ruling on Friday and asked her to pick him up early from school.

“He’s in panic mode,” she said, adding that whenever she and her family feel like they’re in a “relatively safe holding pattern,” something happens that reminds her that they don’t. are not.

Katie told NBC News in March that she would be moving her family to Denver this summer due to Abbott’s directive and the state’s anti-transgender laws. On Friday, however, she said they might not wait that long.

“At this point, I’m going to talk to our future landlord about possibly increasing the date of our lease just to see what the possibilities are if we wanted to move on sooner,” she said. “It’s so unfortunate. All of that time and energy should be spent on positive things for our family and positive things for our future, and it feels like we’re always thrown back into that adrenaline-fueled defensive position. It’s a nightmare.”

Adri Perez, political and advocacy strategist for LGBTQ equality at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said there has been “a tsunami of parents leaving the state of Texas,” but there are also parents who cannot leave and wonder how to keep their children safe.

“For weeks, we have been able to rely on the statewide injunction on investigations to bring peace to families and their children,” Perez said. “Unfortunately, it’s gone now, and I’m afraid to break the news to them.”

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