AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Texas Supreme Court is allowing the state to resume some abuse investigations into gender-confirming care for transgender youth while also ruling in favor of one family that was among the first contacted by child welfare officials.
Governor Greg Abbott had ordered state agencies to investigate reported instances of kids undergoing gender-transitioning procedures -- calling it "abuse" and saying that it harms young children.
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.
Lamda 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. Although the ruling 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, counsel and health care strategist for Lamda Legal.
"It would be both futile and a complete waste of resources for them to do so," Gonzalez-Pagan said.
Texas went farther than any state in February when Abbott issued the first-of-its-kind order that instructed child welfare officials to investigate reports of gender-confirming care for kids as abuse.
In a hearing in March, a Texas judge put that order on hold after a lawsuit brought on behalf of the the 16-year-old girl whose family said the state was already investigating their family.
The lawsuit marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott's directive and an earlier non-binding 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.
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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