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Texas state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care as ‘child abuse’

LGBTQ+ advocates in Texas were outraged calling actions “disinformation, being spread about transgender people and their healthcare”

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Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (Screenshot KXAN NBC News Austin)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state agencies Tuesday to investigate reports of gender-affirming care on minors, following an official opinion from state Attorney General Ken Paxton that called the treatment a form of “child abuse” under Texas law. 

In a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), Abbott cited Paxton’s opinion, writing, “A number of so-called ‘sex change’ procedures constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.” He added that because the DFPS is “responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas.”

Abbott targeted a “wide variety of elective procedures” in his letter, including gender-affirming surgery and reversible puberty blockers. 

“Texas law imposes reporting requirements upon all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, and provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse,” Abbott wrote. 

It is unclear what the immediate effect of the order will have on Trans and nonbinary children in the state, but LGBTQ+ advocates warn it could be devastating. 

A spokesperson for the DFPS told the Dallas Morning News that it will “follow Texas law as explained [by Paxton’s opinion],” adding that “there are no pending investigations of child abuse involving the procedures described in that opinion.”

However, Christian Menefee – a county attorney who represents the DFPS in civil child abuse cases in Harris County, Texas – said in a tweet that his “office won’t be participating in this political game.”

“We’ll continue to follow the laws on the books—not @KenPaxtonTX’s politically motivated and legally wrong ‘opinion,’” he added. 

Menefee serves as the elected, top civil lawyer for Texas’ largest county, Harris County, leading an office of 250 attorneys and staff members. 

Abbott CC’d several other Texas agencies in his letter, including the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, Medical Board and Juvenile Justice Department.

Abbott’s letter came hours after Paxton’s opinion, equating gender-affirming surgery to “genital mutilation.”

“Targeting trans youth, their parents, and their health care providers for political gain is unconscionable. We strongly denounce this alarmist and misguided opinion which could obstruct access to medically necessary care,” Walter Bouman, PhD, MD, President, World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), told the Blade in an emailed statement.

LGBTQ+ advocates in Texas were outraged over both Paxton’s opinion and Abbott’s letter, calling it “disinformation, being spread about transgender people and their healthcare.”

“Since the beginning of the 2021 legislative session, anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, including the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general have sought to lay the groundwork to turn Texans against their LGBTQ+ neighbors through an onslaught of harmful legislation, inflammatory rhetoric and discredited legal opinions,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, told the Blade in a statement. “They have found it politically advantageous to spread lies about and villainize LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, grossly mischaracterizing our lives to paint us as scary caricatures that need to be feared, all in service of securing their re-elections.”

The moves by Abbott and Paxton come after unsuccessful attempts to ban gender-affirming care from Texas legislators last year. 

“Texas parents who support their trans kids should be applauded, not prosecuted. The Trevor Project’s research demonstrates that trans youth who feel accepted by the adults in their lives — including family members, teachers, and doctors — are less likely to attempt suicide,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project. “Further, our research found that gender-affirming hormone therapy has been linked to lower rates of depression and suicide risk among trans youth who wanted it. The government should not be involved in personal decisions that force doctors and families to act against the medical community’s standards of care for transgender young people.”

Paley added, “To all the transgender and nonbinary young people in Texas who are feeling scared and worried right now, please know that The Trevor Project and a broad coalition of organizations are fighting for you, and our counselors are available 24/7 if you ever need help or support.”

Out California state Senator Scott Wiener released the following statement after Governor Greg Abbott of Texas announced that he would direct child protective services to investigate the parents of trans kids who receive gender-affirming medical care for prosecution:

“This despicable move by Governor Abbott criminalizes parents for supporting their trans children and threatens to tear trans kids away from their parents. It will lead to even more trans kids committing suicide. I simply cannot comprehend the obsession of right-wing politicians with attacking trans kids and trying to destroy their lives. California will continue to stand strong for trans children and for all LGBTQ people.”

“Affirming your child for who they are, inclusive of their race, abilities and genders, is an act of love. Seeking the help your child needs at the time they need it is an act of love. PFLAG continues to support and encourage families and caregivers in these acts of love for their transgender and nonbinary children,” said Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National.

Many major medical organizations – including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Academy of Pediatrics – support age-appropriate, individualized gender-affirming care for minors. 
Nearly 14,000 Texans between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as Trans, according to the William’s Institute at UCLA.

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Texas

Texas AG barred from intervening in Trans youth medical case lawsuit

“The Texas Supreme Court said the AG’s opinion is not binding & that the AG should not be getting involved in these situations”

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Children’s Medical Center of Dallas (CMCD/Facebook)

DALLAS – On Friday, after a more than two hour hearing which at times was combative, Dallas county judge Melissa Bellan ruled that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had no standing to intervene in a lawsuit between a physician who provides Trans specific healthcare and Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

Dr. Ximena Lopez, who led Children’s GENECIS programme for trans and non-binary youth, had sued the hospital after its decision to stop providing vital gender-affirming treatments – such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy – to new patients. 

The Dallas Morning News reported that in May, Children’s agreed to allow Lopez to resume this care through April 2023 while the case is being litigated. Judge Bellan’s decision will allow Dr. Lopez to continue seeing patients under this agreement.

According to court records Paxton’s office intervened based on Paxton’s highly controversial opinion that these types of Trans youth treatments can constitute child abuse. The Republican Attorney General released a formal attorney general opinion concluding that performing certain “sex-change” procedures on children, and prescribing puberty-blockers to them, is “child abuse” under Texas law last February.

At the time of the opinion, Walter Bouman, PhD, MD, President, World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) told the Blade in an emailed statement:

“Targeting trans youth, their parents, and their health care providers for political gain is unconscionable. We strongly denounce this alarmist and misguided opinion which could obstruct access to medically necessary care. It is yet another example of the profound misunderstanding of the conditions under which transgender people live, and a profound lack of compassion for the need for responsible medical care that helps trans people, including trans youth, to thrive and contribute to society.”

In arguments presented by Dr. Lopez on Friday, Charla Aldous, one of Lopez’s lawyers said that Paxton’s office was targeting trans care for “purely political reasons.”

“We are pleased that Judge Bellan saw through these shenanigans and struck the intervention. It is mind boggling that Paxton continues to fight against the best interest of children,” Aldous said in a statement.

“That decision goes against child welfare laws as we interpret them,” Assistant Attorney General Johnathan Stone told Judge Bellan. “We’re defending the state’s ability to enforce the law.”

According to the The Dallas Morning News, Stone pointed to a nonbinding opinion Paxton issued in February that came to the conclusion that these treatments are considered child abuse under current law. The state, under Gov. Greg Abbott’s blessing, has cited this opinion to investigate families with transgender children.

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) can continue to investigate families in the state who provide medically necessary care for their Trans children, excluding the parties in the litigation that brought the matter forward in a lawsuit filed in March.

The justices however, questioned why DFPS had acted in the first case.

In its decision, the court emphasized that neither Attorney General Paxton nor Governor Abbott has the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate the provision of medically necessary lifesaving health care for transgender youth as child abuse. But the court limited the order blocking all investigations to the specific plaintiffs who filed suit.

Judge Bellan cited this ruling repeatedly when questioning the state as to why they thought they could intervene in this case.

“That opinion is not legally binding. So that shoots your argument out of the water,” Bellan told Stone. “The Texas Supreme Court said the AG’s opinion is not binding, it is not law and that the AG should not be getting involved in these situations.”

Additional reporting from The Dallas Morning News.

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Court issues restraining order; Stops Texas investigation of PFLAG families

“This is now the sixth time in recent months a Texas court has ruled in favor of transgender youth and their loving, supportive families”

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District Court for Travis County, Austin (Photo credit: County of Travis, Texas)

AUSTIN — The Travis County District Court granted a temporary restraining order on Friday to block the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating PFLAG families who are supporting their transgender children with medically necessary health care, including the three plaintiff families in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU of Texas, along with Texas-based law firm Baker Botts LLP filed the lawsuit in state court on behalf of PFLAG National. The court’s ruling stops the DFPS from investigating the parents named in the lawsuit. Under the terms of the temporary restraining order, families need only provide notice of their PFLAG membership if ever contacted by DFPS.

“That families will be protected from invasive, unnecessary, and unnerving investigations by DFPS simply for helping their transgender children thrive and be themselves is a very good thing,” said Brian K. Bond Executive Director of PFLAG National. “However, let’s be clear: These investigations into loving and affirming families shouldn’t be happening in the first place. PFLAG National and our chapters throughout Texas remain committed to ensuring every transgender Texan is safe, empowered, and can thrive.”

The lawsuit names Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a February directive stating that health care that is medically necessary for treating gender dysphoria should be considered a form of child abuse. The suit also names Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS as defendants.

Doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth for decades. However, it has increasingly become a target of attacks from state lawmakers.

“This is now the sixth time in recent months a Texas court has ruled in favor of transgender youth and their loving, supportive families.” said Adri Pérez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas. “The court and Texans agree: weaponizing the child-welfare system against loving families causes irreparable harm. It is senseless for governor-appointed Jamie Masters and DFPS to keep pushing forward these baseless investigations, and for Ken Paxton to keep wasting state resources by filing reckless appeals in his campaign to target transgender Texans.”

“We are relieved that—at least for now—the threat of a child abuse investigation is no longer hanging over the heads of PFLAG families here in Texas,” said Paul D. Castillo, Lambda Legal senior counsel. “When we learned that DFPS had restarted investigations, when the Texas Supreme Court made it clear neither the governor nor the attorney general had the authority to compel such investigations, we knew we needed to move quickly to shore up support and protection for those parents who are working to provide love, support, and safety for their kids. It is unconscionable that DFPS persists in causing more trauma and harm for these youth and these families. We appreciate that the judge saw this activity clearly for what it was, and moved so rapidly to halt it.”

In an earlier lawsuit brought by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, ACLU of Texas, and Baker Botts, the Texas Supreme Court upheld part of an appeals court order preventing DFPS from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent transgender children with medically necessary health care. That case, Doe v. Abbott, is still pending.

While the Texas Supreme Court emphasized that neither Attorney General Ken Paxton nor Governor Abbott have the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate the provision of essential and often lifesaving medical care for transgender youth as child abuse, the court limited the order blocking all investigations to the specific plaintiffs who filed suit.

PFLAG provides confidential peer support, education, and advocacy to LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies. With a nationwide network of hundreds of chapters — including 17 in Texas — PFLAG National works with families, schools, and communities to build safety and support for transgender youth.

The lawsuit references a suicide attempt and suicidal thoughts in the LGBTQIA+ community. If you or someone you know requires help and support, please contact The Trevor Lifeline (866) 488-7386 or TransLifeline (877) 565-8860. 

In addition, any person contacted by DFPS or who knows of a family that has been contacted by DFPS is encouraged to contact the Lambda Legal Help Desk.

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Texas

PFLAG, ACLU, & Lambda Legal sue Texas over persecuting Trans families

The Texas foster care system is overburdened. in crisis & placing more kids into it due to false accusations of child abuse will hurt everyone

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District Court for Travis County, Austin (Photo credit: County of Travis, Texas)

AUSTIN – In a court filing Wednesday with the District Court for Travis County, Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU of Texas, along with Texas-based law firm Baker Botts LLP, sued the state asking that the court block state investigations of PFLAG families with transgender minor children.

The suit requests that the court block state investigations that would interfere with families’ ability to provide medically necessary health care.

The lawsuit names Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a February directive stating that health care that is medically necessary for treating gender dysphoria should be considered a form of child abuse. The suit also names Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS as defendants. 

“For nearly 50 years, PFLAG parents have united against government efforts to harm their LGBTQ+ kids. By going after trans kids and their families, Gov. Abbott has picked a fight with thousands of families in Texas and across the country who are united as members of PFLAG National,” said Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National. “Loving and affirming your child and empowering them to be themselves is the highest calling of any parent, no matter your child’s gender. If it takes a court ruling to ensure that the law protects families who lead with love in support of transgender Texans, so be it.”

In an earlier lawsuit brought by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, ACLU of Texas, and Baker Botts, the Texas Supreme Court upheld part of an appeals court order preventing DFPS from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent transgender children with medically necessary health care. That case, Doe v. Abbott, is still pending.

While the Texas Supreme Court emphasized that neither Attorney General Ken Paxton nor Governor Abbott have the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate the provision of essential and often lifesaving medical care for transgender youth as child abuse, the court limited the order blocking all investigations to the specific plaintiffs who filed suit.

“It is indefensible for any state leader to repeatedly attack trans Texans and weaponize the child welfare system against the loving families of transgender kids and teens.” said Adri Pérez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas. “We will continue to fight against these baseless attacks on our community. Transgender kids deserve to have life-saving gender-affirming care in Texas, so that they might live safely grow up to be transgender adults. During this Pride Month, we must take a stand against government leaders that are hellbent on stoking fear, and trying to criminalize transgender young people and their families.”

“Notwithstanding the clear language in the recent Texas Supreme Court ruling that Attorney General Paxton and Gov. Abbott do not have the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate loving families who are providing medically necessary care for their transgender adolescents as child abuse, the agency seems determined to target these families and threaten to tear them apart,” Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Paul D. Castillo said. “With today’s filing, we are joining with PFLAG in working to protect all Texas families who simply want to make sure their children are safe, happy, and healthy. It is unconscionable that the state wants to interfere in that relationship.”

Doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth for decades. However, it has increasingly become a target of attacks from state lawmakers. Federal courts have blocked the enforcement of legislative bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Arkansas and Alabama and no court in the country has ever classified gender-affirming care as child abuse. Texas is the only state threatening to take children from loving parents who are providing this lifesaving care and placing them in the foster care system.

The state’s foster care system is already overburdened and in crisis, and placing more kids into the system due to false accusations of child abuse will hurt everyone.

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