AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court on Friday allowed the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse while also ruling in favor of one family that was among the first contacted by child welfare officials following an order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
The court did not rule on the merits of the investigations — which were the first of its kind in the U.S. — only that lower courts in Texas overstepped by trying to block all cases from going forward.
The mixed ruling by Texas’ highest civil court, which is entirely controlled by nine elected Republican justices, comes at a moment when GOP lawmakers across the U.S. are accelerating efforts to impose restrictions on transgender rights.
Lambada Legal, which helped bring the lawsuit against Texas on behalf of the parents of the 16-year-old girl, called the decision a win because it put the state’s investigation into their family on hold. Omar Gonzalez Paden counsel, health care strategist at Lambada Legal, explained that while Texas is not prohibited from investigating other families, it wouldn’t be wise to start one now.
“It would be both futile and a complete waste of resources for them to do so,” Gonzalez-Paden said.
Texas took it further than any other state when Abbott in February issued an unprecedented order directing child welfare officers to look into reports of abuse and gender-confirming care given for children.
After a suit brought by the family of the girl (16 years old), a judge in Austin placed the order on hold. The family claimed that the state had already begun investigating them. It was filed jointly by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The lawsuit marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott’s directive and an earlier nonbinding legal opinion by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton labeling certain gender-confirming treatments as “child abuse.” The Texas Department of Family and Protective Service has said it opened nine investigations following the directive and opinion.
Republicans across the nation have joined the transgender rights debates as LGBTQ Americans are becoming more visible in society.
The Arizona Legislature passed legislation in March to ban gender confirmation surgery for minors, as well as banning transgender athletes playing on girls’ sports teams. Republican Governor. Doug Ducey signed these bills.
Utah’s two other GOP governors resisted their party and blocked legislation that would have banned transgender women from participating in girls sports.
In Texas, the groups bringing the lawsuit also represent a clinical psychologist who has said the governor’s directive forces her to choose between reporting clients to the state or losing her license and other penalties.
The governor’s directive and Paxton’s opinion go against the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions on transgender people filed in statehouses nationwide.
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