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A group of families and legal groups sue state over ban on gender-affirming care for minors

LGBTQ+ activists protest Senate Bill 14 at the Texas Capitol, Friday, May 12, 2023, in Austin, Texas.
Mikala Compton
LGBTQ+ activists protest Senate Bill 14 at the Texas Capitol on May 12.

Families and physicians have filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas alleging a bill banning health care for transgender youth is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The bill, Senate Bill 14, was signed into law last month and will have “devastating consequences for transgender adolescents in Texas,” when it goes into effect Sept. 1, according to the lawsuit. SB 14 bans transgender children from receiving puberty blockers and hormone therapy. The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Austin and also names the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the state attorney general and the Texas Medical Board as defendants.

“The Ban discriminates against parents seeking care for their transgender adolescent children in the exercise of their fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children,” the lawsuit states. “Texas is endangering the health and wellbeing of transgender adolescents and violating the Texas Constitution’s guarantees of equality under the law by enacting a discriminatory and categorical prohibition on medical treatments for transgender youth that remain available to others.”

The lawsuit was filed by several parent groups who have five transgender children between them; PFLAG, a national organization that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies; GLMA, a national organization which supports and advocates for LGBTQ+ health care professionals; and three physicians who are licensed to practice in Texas. They are represented by American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and the law firms Scott Douglass & McConnico LLP and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

The lawsuit also alleges that SB 14 deprives physicians of their “vested property in their medical licenses” and their rights to occupational liberty.

The lawsuit is seeking temporary injunction stopping the enforcement of SB 14 as the case goes to trial and following that, a permanent injunction of the law.

The Texas attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit adds that several different courts across the country have blocked similar laws passed in other states, including Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. In the Florida case, a federal judge ruled last month that the bill would cause trans youth to suffer irreparable harm, NPR reported. And in the Indiana case, a federal judge blocked parts of that state’s law after deciding that “evidence of risks to minors' health and wellbeing from gender dysphoria if those treatments can no longer be provided to minors,” according to the Associated Press.

During a Thursday conference call with reporters, Emmett Schelling, the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), said lawmakers have created a culture of fear and anxiety for trans people in the state.

“We are hearing voices that are literally trying to rip away my humanity and the humanity of so many other beautiful people from my community," he said.

"The cruelty is the point," Schelling said. "The cruelty is what's driving this legislation. The cruelty is what is targeting trans people specifically."

Alex Sheldon, the executive director of GLMA, said the law has already had a chilling effect on doctors' abilities to offer the best standards of care for their trans patients.

"They are leaving the state to practice elsewhere, where their obligation to prioritize patient health is not undermined by punitive policies like SB 14," Shelton said. "What will Texas look like when health care providers have left the state in droves? This scenario is one where all Texans will struggle to access adequate health care."

Paul Castillo, an attorney with Lambda Legal, said the case was filed in state court because of the Texas Constitution’s guarantees of parental rights.

“The Texas Constitution provides stronger rights for parents, stronger rights in the guarantees of equality [and] not to discriminate on the basis of sex,” Castillo said.

KERA reporter Elena Rivera contributed to this report.

Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

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