Texas Supreme Court allows state to investigate parents of trans teens
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court on Friday granted the state permission to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse while ruling in favor of a family that was among the first contacted by officials of child protection following an order from the Republican Governor. Greg Abbott.
The court did not rule on the merits of the investigations – which were the first of their kind in the United States – only that lower courts in Texas overruled in an attempt to block all cases from moving forward.
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The mixed decision from Texas’ highest civil court, made up of nine elected Republican justices, comes at a time when GOP lawmakers across the United States are accelerating efforts to impose restrictions on transgender rights. Both sides in the lawsuit called the decision a victory.
Lambda Legal, which helped bring the lawsuit against Texas on behalf of the 16-year-old’s parents, called the decision a victory because it suspended the state’s investigation into their family. While the decision does not prevent Texas from launching investigations into other families, the state would be foolish to do so now because those families could also seek an injunction, said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, attorney and healthcare strategist. of health for Lambda Legal.
“It would be both futile and a complete waste of resources for them to do so,” Gonzalez-Pagan said.
Texas went further than any state in February when Abbott issued an order, the first of its kind, ordering child protection officials to investigate care reports confirming the gender of children as abuse.
An Austin judge suspended that order after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 16-year-old girl whose family said the state was already investigating their family. It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.
The lawsuit marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott’s directive and an earlier non-binding legal opinion from Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton calling certain gender-confirming treatments “abuse.” of children”. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said it opened nine investigations as a result of the directive and notice.
Brian Klosterboer, an ACLU staff attorney handling the case, said the court’s decision was “largely good news,” citing relief for his clients as well as finding that Paxton’s opinion and Abbott’s guideline are not binding and have no legal effect. . Klosterboer said the court ruling clarifies that the governor does not have the power to change Texas law and while the state’s family services agency can decide whether or not to investigate, it is up to the courts to decide whether the agency can take action against any families reported under this directive. .
“His directive is, I think, what caused the most harm, because it created a lot of fear and panic across the state,” Klosterboer said.
According to Klosterboer, Paxton’s office filed an appeal within minutes of the decision.
In a social media post after the decision, Paxton said he just “got a win.” Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Across the country, Republicans have leaned into debates over transgender rights as LGBTQ Americans have become increasingly visible in society and pop culture.
In March, the Arizona Legislature passed bills banning gender confirmation surgery for minors and banning transgender athletes from playing on women’s sports teams, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed them into law.
Two other GOP governors, in Indiana and Utah, stood up to their party and vetoed legislation to ban transgender players from women’s sports.
In Texas, the groups filing the lawsuit also represent a clinical psychologist who said the governor’s directive forced her to choose between reporting clients to the state or losing her license and other penalties.
The governor’s directive and Paxton’s opinion run counter to the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions on transgender people being lodged in nursing homes. state of the country.