AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - A Texas judge on Wednesday, March 2, blocked the state from investigating the parents of a transgender teenager over gender-confirmation treatments, but stopped short of preventing the state from looking into other reports about children receiving similar care.
District Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary order halting the investigation by the Department of Family and Protective Services into the parents of the 16-year-old girl.
The parents sued over the investigation and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's order last week that officials look into reports of such treatments as abuse.
Meachum wrote that the parents and the teen "face the 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."
Clark set a March 11 hearing on whether to issue a broader temporary order blocking enforcement of Abbott's directive.
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-confirmation treatments as "child abuse." The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal sued the state Tuesday on behalf of the teen.
"We appreciate the relief granted to our clients, but this should never have happened and is unfathomably cruel," said Brian Klosterboer, ACLU of Texas attorney, said in a statement. "Families should not have to fear being separated because they are providing the best possible health care for their children."
Spokespersons for Abbott and Paxton's offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.
Meachum issued the order hours after attorneys for the state and for the parents appeared her via Zoom in a brief hearing.
Paul Castillo, Lambda Legal's senior counsel, told Meachum that allowing the order to be enforced would cause "irreparable" harm to the teen's parents and other families.
"It is unconscionable for DFPS to still pursue any investigation or inflict more trauma and harm," Castillo said in a statement after the judge's ruling.
The groups also represent a clinical psychologist who has said the order will force her to choose between reporting her clients to the state or facing the loss of her license and other penalties.
Ryan Kercher, an attorney with Paxton's office, told Meachum that the governor's order and the earlier opinion don't require the state to investigate every transgender child receiving gender-affirming care.
Abbott's directive and the attorney general's opinion go against the nation's largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions filed in statehouses nationwide.
Arkansas last year became the first state to pass a law prohibiting gender confirming treatments for minors, and Tennessee approved a similar measure. A judge blocked Arkansas' law, and the state is appealing.
The Texas lawsuit does not identify the family by name. The suit said the mother works for DFPS on the review of reports of abuse and neglect. The day of Abbott's order, she asked her supervisor how it would affect the agency's policy, according to the lawsuit.
The mother was placed on leave because she has a transgender daughter and the following day was informed her family would be investigated in accordance with the governor's directive, the suit said. The teen has received puberty-delaying medication and hormone therapy.
DFPS said Tuesday that it had received three reports since Abbott's order and Paxton's opinion, but would not say whether any resulted in investigations.
At Wednesday's hearing, Castillo said he was aware of at least two other families being investigated. He also said some medical providers have stopped providing prescriptions for gender-affirming care because of the governor's order.
President Biden weighed in on the matter with the following statement Wednesday night:
In recent days, elected leaders in Texas have launched a cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents. The Governor of Texas has directed state officials to open child abuse investigations into families simply because they have provided access to affirming care for their children. This is government overreach at its worst. Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, 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.
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced several actions to keep transgender children in Texas and their families safe—putting the state of Texas on notice that their discriminatory actions put children's lives at risk. These announcements make clear that rather than weaponizing child protective services against loving families, child welfare agencies should instead expand access to gender-affirming care for transgender children. Respected medical organizations have said that access to gender-affirming care for transgender children can benefit mental health, lower suicide rates, and improve other health outcomes. Children, their parents, and their doctors should have the freedom to make the medical decisions that are best for each young person—without politicians getting the way.
In the United States of America, we respect the rights and dignity of all families. Transgender children bring fulfillment to their parents, joy to their friends, and are made in the image of God. Affirming a transgender child's identity is one of the best things a parent, teacher, or doctor can do to help keep children from harm, and parents who love and affirm their children should be applauded and supported, not threatened, investigated, or stigmatized. As I told transgender Americans in my State of the Union Address yesterday evening, "I'll always have your back as your President so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential." Jill and I are standing with the incredibly brave transgender children, their parents, and families throughout Texas and around the country, and we will continue to fight for a future where all children can thrive.
(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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