AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Supreme Court on Friday allowed the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse, while also ruling in favor of a family that was among the first to be contacted by welfare officials. being childish following an order from Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
The court declined to comment on the merits of the investigations – which were the first of their kind in the US – only that lower Texas courts went overboard in trying to stop all cases from moving forward.
The mixed decision by Texas’ highest civil court, which is entirely controlled by nine elected Republican judges, comes at a time when US Republican lawmakers are accelerating efforts to impose restrictions on transgender rights.
Lambada Legal, which helped file the lawsuit against Texas on behalf of the 16-year-old girl’s parents, called the decision a victory because it suspended the state’s investigation into her family. While the ruling does not prevent Texas from initiating investigations into other families, the state would be foolish to do so now because those families can also seek an injunction, said Omar Gonzalez-Paden, an attorney and health strategist at Lambada Legal.
“It would be pointless and a complete waste of resources for them to do that,” said Gonzalez-Paden.
Texas went further than any other state in February when Abbott issued an unprecedented order instructing child welfare officials to investigate reports of gender-confirming care for children as abuse.
A judge in Austin suspended the order following a lawsuit filed on behalf of the 16-year-old girl whose family said the state was already investigating her family. It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.
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 Services said it opened nine investigations following the directive and advice.
Across the country, Republicans have leaned into debates about transgender rights as LGBTQ Americans have become increasingly visible in society and pop culture.
In March, the Arizona Legislature passed bills to ban gender confirmation surgery for minors and ban transgender athletes from playing on women’s sports teams, and Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed them into law.
Two other Republican governors in Indiana and Utah bucked their party and vetoed legislation to ban transgender players from female sports.
In Texas, the groups filing the lawsuit also represent a clinical psychologist who 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 run counter to the country’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions on transgender people presented in state houses across the country.
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