Judge blocks Texas from investigating parents of transgender teens

The federal government said it will protect trans and gender diverse youth in Texas.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A Travis County, Texas, district court judge granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday for prevent the state from conducting a child abuse investigation of a family seeking gender-affirming health care for their transgender daughteraccording to CNN.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Texas and the LGBTQ civil rights organization Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of the parents of a transgender girl.

The girl's mother, an employee of the state's Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), had been furloughed from her job due to last week's legal opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who says that gender-affirming treatments and procedures for transgender children can constitute a form of child abuse.

Paxton's legal opinion prompted Governor Greg Abbott to instruct DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters to "Please conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported cases of these abusive procedures in the state of Texas."

Judge Amy Clark Meachum wrote in an order that the family named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit "suffer irreparable harm" unless the defendants, Abbott and DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters fail to investigate families of transgender children.

Without the temporary restraining order, Meachum wrote, the plaintiffs, identified as Jane, John and Mary Doe, would face “the imminent and ongoing deprivation of their constitutional rights, the potential loss of necessary medical care, and the stigma associated with being the subject of an unfounded child abuse investigation.”

Furthermore, Meachum wrote that if Jane Doe, a DFPS employee, were placed on a Child Abuse Registry as a result of the investigationshe "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."

Abbott and Paxton were listed as candidates in the Republican primary on Tuesday. Abbott won the gubernatorial primary and Paxton will advance to a runoff.

Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of DFPS Employee

According to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, the plaintiffs are identified as clinical psychologist Dr. Megan Mooney and “supportive” parents, “Jane and John Doe”, individually and as close friends of “Mary Doe”, a girl 16-year-old transgender woman diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is psychological distress that occurs when a person's gender identity and assigned sex at birth don't align, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Jane Doe, a DFPS employee, asked her employer to clarify how the governor's order would affect agency policy, according to the lawsuit.

She was then placed on leave "because she has a transgender daughter with a medical need for gender dysphoria treatment," the suit says. DFPS Child Protective Services visited the plaintiffs' home after being told they were under investigation, according to the lawsuit.

Jane Doe is on leave pending the results of the DFPS investigation, according to court documents.

If the investigation finds that the parents committed abuse, they would be placed on the Child Abuse Registry "and be unduly subject to all the effects that flow from such placement," according to the lawsuit. Jane Doe could also face termination and, as a result, lose the family's health care coverage, according to the suit.

Plaintiffs accuse Abbott and Masters of attempting to "legislate by press release" after the Texas legislature "failed to pass legislation that criminalizes well-established, medically necessary treatment for adolescents with gender dysphoria."

President Joe Biden criticized Abbott's order to DFPS, calling the move "a cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents."

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra reaffirmed HHS's commitment to support and protect transgender youth and their parents, caregivers and families, in a statement.

Becerra also announced several immediate actions HHS is taking to support LGBTQI+ youth and reminding Texas and other states of the federal protections that exist to ensure that transgender youth receive the care they need.

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