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Texas Appeals Court reinstates injunction halting Trans child abuse cases

“We conclude that reinstating the temporary injunction is necessary to maintain the status quo and preserve the rights of all parties”

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Texas Trans youth activists rally at state capitol building to protest anti-Trans laws summer of 2021. (Photo Credit: ACLU of Texas)

AUSTIN – The Texas Court of Appeals for the state’s third circuit reinstated the temporary injunction Monday, as issued by the Travis County, Texas district court on March 11, 2022, which bars the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigations of parents and families of Transgender youth.

Travis County Texas District Court Judge, Amy Clark Meachum, ordered a preliminary statewide injunction March 11 and had granted a temporary restraining order to block the DFPS from investigating the plaintiffs of a lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU of Texas), and the ACLU.

The Court of Appeals wrote in its ruling Monday, “Having reviewed the record, we conclude that reinstating the temporary injunction is necessary to maintain the status quo and preserve the rights of all parties.”

The plaintiffs sought this emergency relief after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive stating that providing gender-affirming care is a form of child abuse and DFPS announced they would follow the governor’s directive. The lawsuit names Abbott, DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters, and DFPS as defendants. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an employee of DFPS with a transgender child, her husband, and their transgender teen. According to the complaint, this family has had an investigator already arrive at their home. The family has filed the lawsuit anonymously. 

Friday Meachum ruled there was a “substantial likelihood” that the plaintiffs challenging the law would succeed as the case plays out, ruling Abbott’s order is “beyond the scope of his authority and unconstitutional” and the plaintiffs would be harmed if it was allowed to remain in effect, journalist Alison Durkee reported for Forbes magazine.

The Court of Appeals, by granting an emergency motion filed by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal that sought to keep in place a ruling by a lower court that temporarily blocked the investigations, means now that actions by the appeals court will determine whether probes of parents of trans children can or cannot take place before the case goes to trial in July.

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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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