WASHINGTON – A day after President Biden’s State of the Union, a Texas judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating two parents for providing gender-affirming health care to their 16-year-old transgender daughter.
The restraining order only applies to the Doe family and its lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal on Tuesday. However, District Judge Amy Clark Meachum will consider a request for a broader injunction next Friday.
Advocates are encouraging at-risk families to seek legal assistance prior to any potential investigations.
“This is a critical victory and important first step in stopping these egregious and illegal actions from Texas officials,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, in a press release. “We are relieved for our plaintiffs and ready to keep fighting to stop the governor, commissioner, and DFPS from inflicting further harm on trans people and their families and communities across Texas.”
After Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s call to consider gender-affirming health care for minors as child abuse under state law — and Gov. Greg Abbott’s public support of the opinion — parents supporting trans children were put at legal risk, with some even considering moving out of state.
President Biden condemned anti-trans legislation in Texas and nationwide in a statement released on Wednesday.
“Elected leaders in Texas have launched a cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents,” Biden said.
Abbott and Paxton’s push to consider parents’ provision of gender-affirming health care to minors is “government overreach at its worst,” the president added.
“The Governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points. These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop,” he said.
Biden also referenced his State of the Union promise to always have transgender Americans’ backs, adding that he and the first lady “will continue to fight for a future where all children can thrive.”
Medill News Service spoke with Erin Reed, a trans right advocate and transgender woman, on what the above federal guidance and provision of resources mean for her community. Reed had previously told MNS that Biden’s remarks on “LGBTQ+ Americans” during the Tuesday address were hopeful but not enough.
“This mobilization of federal resources feels like a breath of air in the middle of this experience where it feels like we’re just drowning in legislation targeted towards trans people,” Reed said. “There’s more morale now, and it seems like people are hopeful now.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra called the current treatment of transgender Texans “discriminatory” and “unconscionable” and encouraged Texans to contact the Office for Civil Rights to report their experience if feeling unsafe or threatened.
“At HHS, we listen to medical experts and doctors, and they agree with us, that access to affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be life-saving,” Becerra said.
HHS has released guidance on how local governments can use state child welfare agencies to “advance safety and support for LGBTQI+ youth,” as well as guidance on illegality of denying health care based on gender identity, as well as restricting doctors and health care providers from providing medical assistance.
“I definitely still don’t have any hope on legislation, on the Equality Act, anything like that,” Reed said. “Our best bet is through a mixture of state and local laws where these laws can be passed, and then executive branch guidance and support and mobilization of resources and enforcement of federal law in non-discrimination and constitutional protections that we have.”
More details and resources can be found in the HHS statement.
Both the Texas and federal decisions come as a variety of advocates across the nation – including immigration and trans rights – demanded Congress and Biden actually take action, rather than reiterate promises of protection.
“I want to see the follow through,” Reed said.