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Federal judge blocks Kentucky's ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked a Kentucky state bill that would ban transgender care for minors, ruling that it violates the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

Kentucky Senate Bill 150, passed into law by Republican lawmakers in March over Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's veto, aims to regulate some of the most personal aspects of life for transgender young people, from restricting the bathrooms they can use, to banning access to gender-affirming health care — including the use of puberty blockers and hormones.

Seven transgender minors and their parents sued the state for relief from the law, arguing that it violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment. The challenge was filed by the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky found that the treatments barred by SB 150 are medically appropriate and necessary for some transgender children under evidence-based standards of care accepted by "all major medical organizations" in the country, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Medical Association. 

"These drugs have a long history of safe use in minors for various conditions. It is undisputed that puberty-blockers and hormones are not given to prepubertal children with gender dysphoria," U.S. District Judge David Hale's ruling read

Hale also found that "regardless of its stated purpose," the law "would have the effect of enforcing gender conformity," which violates the equal protection clause. 

The court sided with the plaintiffs' arguments that gender-affirming treatments had significantly improved the minor plaintiffs' conditions, and that elimination of those treatments would cause serious consequences, "including severe psychological distress and the need to move out of state," the ruling read. 

"It should go without saying that" that the court's decision "will not result in any child being forced to take puberty-blockers or hormones; rather, the treatments will continue to be limited to those patients whose parents and healthcare providers decide, in accordance with the applicable standard of care, that such treatment is appropriate," the ruling said.

"This is a win, but it is only the first step. We're prepared to fight for families' right to make their own private medical decisions in court, and to continue doing everything in our power to ensure access to medical care is permanently secured in Kentucky," Corey Shapiro, ACLU-KY's legal director, said in a statement.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron criticized the ruling as "misguided." 

"Senate Bill 150 is a commonsense law that protects Kentucky children from unnecessary medical experimentation with powerful drugs and hormone treatments," Cameron said. "There is nothing 'affirming' about this dangerous approach to mental health, and my office will continue to do everything in our power to defend this law passed by our elected representatives."

In a written veto message in March, Beshear said the bill allows "too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children."

Beshear also warned that the bill's repercussions could include an increase in youth suicide. 

"My faith teaches me that all children are children of God and Senate Bill 150 will endanger the children of Kentucky," the governor said.

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