TEXAS, USA – A Texas judge on Wednesday, March 2 temporarily blocked a state-ordered child welfare investigation of the parents of a 16-year-old transgender girl for providing the teen gender-affirming medical treatment that Governor Greg Abbott has branded as child abuse.
Siding against Abbott’s directive for such probes, the judge found the family faces “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 temporary restraining order by Travis County District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum requires the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to halt its investigation until at least March 11. The judge has set a hearing for that date on a request for a broader injunction barring enforcement of Abbott’s order against any family in the state.
The adolescent in question, who was designated male at birth but identifies as female, has taken puberty-delaying medications and hormone therapy as part of gender-affirming transitional medical care, according to the lawsuit brought by her parents.
The teen’s mother is an employee of the DFPS, the agency ordered to investigate her. She was placed on leave after inquiring what the governor’s directive would mean for her family, according to the lawsuit, filed on the parents’ behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Lamda Legal.
The DFPS acknowledged to Reuters on Tuesday that the agency has opened at least three child welfare inquiries subject to a February 22 directive from Abbott, a two-term Republican, ordering investigations of parents whose children undergo “sex change” procedures.
The governor has cited a non-binding legal opinion released on Feb. 18 by the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, in which he concluded that medical treatments used to help transgender youth transition away from their birth gender could constitute child abuse.
Abbott, seeking a third term, is named as a defendant in the court challenge, along with DFPS and its commissioner, Jaime Masters.
The lawsuit, filed in the state capital of Austin, said no other US state considers medical treatments for helping transgender youth transition to be a form of child abuse.
There is wide agreement among mainstream medical and mental health professionals that gender-affirming care for transgender people saves lives by reducing the risk of depression and suicide.
In her four-page decision on Wednesday, the judge said their “wrongful actions cannot be remedied by any award of damages or other adequate remedy of law.”
Besides the harm the judge said would be done by the investigation itself, Meachum found that the mother could lose her livelihood, and both parents “their ability to work with minors and volunteer in their community,” if placed on a child abuse registry.
Moreover, Meachum wrote, the teen’s licensed psychologist, Dr. Megan Mooney, named as a plaintiff in the suit, could face immediate criminal prosecution under the governor’s directive for failing to report the family to child services.
The court action came as US President Joe Biden issued a statement denouncing Abbott’s directive as a “cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents.”
Biden pointed to new Department of Health and Human Services guidance to states stressing that “rather than weaponizing child protective services against loving families, child welfare agencies should instead expand access to gender-affirming care for transgender children.” – Rappler.com