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Texas court blocks CPS from investigating PFLAG trans families

The directive could have led to transgender youth being placed in foster care and their parents criminally charged with child abuse

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Amber Briggle and her son Max (Briggle/Facebook)

AUSTIN – The Travis County District Court issued a third injunction today blocking the State of Texas from implementing a directive issued by Republican Governor Greg Abbott that targets trans youth and their families across Texas.

The directive ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent transgender children with medically necessary healthcare.

The directive could have led to transgender youth being placed in foster care and their parents criminally charged with child abuse—just for following the advice of their physicians and mental health providers.

Today’s ruling in PFLAG v. Abbott covers all Texas families who are members of PFLAG National, a national LGBTQ+ organization with 17 chapters in Texas. It also covers Adam and Amber Briggle and their son, Max.

Earlier, the court had issued an injunction blocking DFPS from investigating two other plaintiff families in the PFLAG v. Abbott lawsuit who are anonymous for purposes of the lawsuit. These injunctions became necessary to protect Texas families after the statewide injunction against the directive issued in an earlier lawsuit, Doe v. Abbott, was put on hold during the State’s appeal.

The ruling comes after the plaintiffs notified the court last week that DFPS was continuing intrusive investigations against PFLAG members, including by pulling a student out of class and questioning him at school about his medical history.

“Today, families of transgender kids in Texas who are members of PFLAG National find shelter from Gov. Abbott’s unjust order,” said Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National. “PFLAG, our chapters in Texas and around the country are sources of support and safety from government harm because every LGBTQ+ person deserves respect, dignity and the right to access the care they need when they need it.”

“Again, the court has grasped the magnitude and breadth of the continued harm that Gov. Abbott’s directive and Attorney General Paxton’s opinion would have caused if DFPS was allowed to pursue its investigations,” said Nicholas “Guilly” Guillory, Tyrone Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “Families across Texas, since Gov. Abbott issued his directive, have lived in fear of the knock on the door. Even after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Abbott could not compel DFPS to conduct investigations, many families remained under investigation. Parents who love their transgender children and work with healthcare providers to support and affirm their well-being should be celebrated, rather than investigated as criminals as the state sought to do here.”

“Once again a Texas court has stepped in to say what we knew from the beginning: State leaders have no business interfering with life-saving care essential for transgender youth,”  said Adri Pérez (they/them), of the ACLU of Texas. “We should trust doctors and every major medical association on how to support transgender youth. State leadership continues to attack parents for how they raise their kids — and all our plaintiffs are doing is providing unconditional love and support for children of all gender identities. We will never stop fighting for the rights, safety, and dignity of transgender Texans.”

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ACLU asks investigation of Texas school districts anti-trans policies

Frisco ISD’s new bathroom policy & Keller ISD’s ban on books referencing gender violate federal rules prohibiting sex-based discrimination

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The ACLU of Texas is calling for federal civil rights investigations into the Keller and Frisco school districts for policies they say discriminate against transgender students. (Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune)

By Brian Lopez | DALLAS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is calling for civil rights investigations into two North Texas school districts over recently implemented anti-transgender policies.

The ACLU, which filed the complaints last week, wants the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate the Frisco Independent School District for passing a policy on Nov. 14 requiring students to use bathrooms that align with their gender assigned at birth. The district said it would make accommodations for students who ask to use a private restroom.

The ACLU said Frisco’s policy would allow the district to “challenge or second-guess students’ official birth certificates.”

“It is deeply invasive and unlawful for school administrators to interrogate students’ private medical information in this way,” the ACLU said in a letter to the Department of Education. “School districts have no right to question students’ sexual characteristics such as genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes.”

The ACLU also wants an investigation into the Keller Independent School District, which earlier this month passed a ban on all books that depict or reference transgender and nonbinary people.

“The policy attempts to erase the existence of transgender and non-binary individuals,” the ACLU’s letter said.

Keller ISD’s anti-transgender policy came about six months after three conservative school board members were elected onto the seven-member board. The new members, all of whom received large donations from a Christian political action committee, campaigned on issues like banning books about LGBTQ experiences from school libraries and banning critical race theory, a college-level field of study that explores the idea that racism is embedded in institutions and legal systems.

Public education advocates and Texas teachers have largely said the discipline is not part of the curriculum in Texas public schools but it has become a shorthand for conservative groups to criticize how history and current events are taught with regard to race.

The ACLU claims that Frisco and Keller’s policies violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal funding.

Frisco and Keller are the latest North Texas school districts to have civil rights complaints lodged against them. Earlier this year, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a similar civil rights complaint against the Carroll Independent School District, based in Southlake, for failing to protect students from discrimination based on their race, sex or gender identity.

Southlake, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, came into the spotlight three years ago after a viral video of white high school students chanting a racist slur prompted community members to share stories of harassment, NBC News reported.

Neither Keller ISD nor Frisco ISD immediately responded to a request for comment.

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Brian Lopez’s staff photo

Brian Lopez is the Public Education Reporter for The Texas Tribune. He joined the Tribune in August 2021 after a covering local government at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a little over a year. The Star-Telegram was his first gig after graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in May 2020 where he worked for the student-run newspaper The Shorthorn. When not on the job, he’s either watching or playing soccer.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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Texas Drag Bingo Night sees armed protestors engage one another

“It’s no different than someone dressed up like a superhero at a comic convention or someone who puts on a Halloween costume”

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Anti-LGBTQ activist outside church drag bingo event in Katy, Texas (Screenshot/YouTube KHOU CBS 11)

KATY, Tx. – The First Christian Church on Morton Ranch Road located in the suburban Houston, Texas metropolitan area was sponsoring an event to raise money for a clothing drive for Trans youth this past Saturday evening.

Billed as a Drag Bingo Night the event was advertised on social media platforms which drew the attention of anti-LGBTQ activists and extremists.

KPRC-TV Click2Houston reported that the opposing groups of anti-LGBTQ+ and groups in support of the LGBTQ+ community verbally confronted each other in heated arguments that were separated by Katy Police and the Harris County Sheriff’s office.

Local CBS affiliate KHOU 11 reported that the heavily armed law enforcement officers formed a line in the median in an effort to keep the two sides separate. As the crowds grew bigger and bigger, more officers arrived.

Cesar Franco, who was with an anti-LGBTQ+ protest group who said “sexualizing and child-grooming kids by exposing them to drag culture is an abomination!” Founder of Urban Conservatives of America, Jonathan McCullough said: “We are out here to push back on things that society knows is wrong. They are having an event, welcoming children to drag queen bingo hour. This is unacceptable.”

There was pushback KHOU CBS 11 noting that across the street, counter-protesters had a different message.

“That is nonsense, because drag in itself is just a costume,” said one person supporting the event. “It’s no different than someone dressed up like a superhero at a comic convention or someone who puts on a Halloween costume.”

Problematically for law enforcement was that both sides had heavily armed people not wanting to back down. Each side spent much of the afternoon yelling at each other with megaphones.

Despite the chaos, a pastor told KHOU 11 the event was a sold-out success.

“We know that not everyone will agree with us, so we create a place for people to feel welcomed and understand there will always be people who don’t agree with us,” the pastor said.

Dueling rallies held outside Katy church outside drag queen bingo fundraiser event:

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Disney-themed drag brunch cancelled after violent threats in Texas

The threats of violence came after social media posts by the anti-LGBTQ+ Libs Of TikTok and far-right media outlet Blaze TV

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Courtesy of Cool Beans Bar & Grill/Facebook

DENTON, Tx. – The Disney-themed drag brunch scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 11 was abruptly cancelled last week after an onslaught of threats of violence to the venue, the Cool Beans Bar and Grill, an LGBTQ+ friendly establishment.

The threats of violence came after social media posts by anti-LGBTQ+ users and far-right media outlet Blaze TV’s host Sara Gonzales, who invited her viewers to join her in shutting the event down.

Denton is home to two state universities with a combined enrollment of over 55,000 students, the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University, along with North Central Texas College. It is in the same county where barely two weeks ago, crowds were gathered outside a family friendly drag show at Anderson Distillery and Grill, in Roanoke, Texas, some with signs accusing the establishment and its patrons of sexually abusing children, or of “grooming” them for abuse.

The owners of Cool Beans Bar and Grill posted a message on its expressing their disgust over being forced to cancel the event:

A former employee, Megan Queen, described the bar the bar as a welcoming place for the LGBTQ community and said she was heartbroken at the threats made against the establishment, according to the Dallas Observer. 

As with many all-ages LGBTQ+ events this summer – from California to North Carolina – hate was ginned up on social media among right-wing extremists who sought to interrupt the event and disband the attendees. 

Leading up to the event, word was spread on anti-LGBTQ+ Facebook groups like Texas Family Project and Protect Texas Kids, the latter warning, “We need to show up in full force and show that the majority of us are against children being involved in these disturbing, sexually explicit shows.”

Editor’s note, story updated: Reference to anti-LGBTQ+ Twitter account LibsofTikTok removed.

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Texas drag brunch defended by armed counter-protesters

According to reactions on social media, many felt it was about time that right-wing threats & intimidation were responded to in kind

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Anti-trans activists protesting a drag brunch in Roanoke, Texas Aug. 28, 2022 (Photo by Steven Monacelli/Twitter)

ROANOKE, Tx – Fueled by months of lies teed up by far-right conspiracy mongers like Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichiklike and Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, what happened on Sunday in Roanoke, Texas, has by now become something of a familiar scene. 

Crowds were gathered outside a family friendly drag show at Anderson Distillery and Grill, close to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, some with signs accusing the establishment and its patrons of sexually abusing children, or of “grooming” them for abuse. 

This time, however, counter-protestors showed up, too. Armed with AR-15 style rifles, they outnumbered the anti-LGBTQ+ activists, according to Steven Monacelli, a journalist with Rolling Stone and Texas Observer, who was there to witness the heated exchanges and document some of the conflict on Twitter

As with many all-ages LGBTQ+ events this summer – from California to North Carolina – hate was ginned up on social media among right-wing extremists who sought to interrupt the event and disband the attendees. 

Leading up to the event, word was spread on anti-LGBTQ+ Facebook groups like Texas Family Project and Protect Texas Kids, the latter warning, “We need to show up in full force and show that the majority of us are against children being involved in these disturbing, sexually explicit shows.”

The event hosted by Anderson Distillery and Grill was called, “Barrel Babes Drag Brunch” described as, “similar to a variety show with professional drag artists lip-syncing, dancing and performing comedy routines.” The owner said there would be no sexual content or erotic behavior. 

A man identified as a member of the far-right Proud Boys was photographed at the protest on Sunday. Some of the signs from anti-LGBTQ+ protestors read: “Christ is KING,” “Drag the queens out of town,” “Children cannot consent,” “Stop sexualizing children,” and “Caution: Monkeypox hotspot approx. 50 ft away. Stay back.”

(Reddit material derived from Twitter thread by journalist Steven Monacelli)

The Proud Boys has made its presence known at multiple all-ages LGBTQ+ events this summer. On June 11, members of the far-right gang shouted homophobic and transphobic slurs at performers who were reading to kids during Drag Queen story hour at the San Lorenzo, CA library. Days later, in Wilmington, North Carolina, parents and children were terrorized when a group of 15 masked militants affiliated with the pro-Trump group marched into the library and disrupted a family friendly LGBTQ+ event for more than 90 minutes. 

According to reactions on social media, many on the left felt it was about time that right-wing homophobic and transphobic threats and intimidation were responded to in kind. 

@BossBunny503 wrote: “Time for us to do this on the Left. I’m done with being intimidated by #ProudBoys, #PatriotFront even cops! Fuck #fascism! If the only way to beat #facists is with militias and the threat of violence so be it!”

Beginning last September, HB1927 made it legal in Texas for most people aged 21 or over to open-carry or concealed-carry a gun in a holster without a permit. 

The presence of an armed contingent of counter-protestors in Texas on Sunday recalled some of the scenes that played out in 2017 over white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. There, a group of about 20 anti-racist and anti-capitalists, called the Redneck Revolt, formed a perimeter around the counter-protestors in Justice Park. They were armed with rifles. 

Other notable recent examples have included some of the protests over police killings of unarmed black men like George Floyd during the summer of 2020. Reuters reports that racists carrying Confederate battle flags in the Atlanta, Georgia suburb of Stone Mountain were met with some armed left-wing protestors, prompting a clash and the intervention of members of law enforcement. 

“A pattern among the clashes was rising tensions between right and left wing groups after nearly three months of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and President Donald Trump’s ‘law and order’ response to demonstrations,” Reuters wrote.

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Texas school district imposes ‘Don’t Say Trans’ policy

“I transferred to another district this year because of the culture of fear you continue to create,” said one LGBTQ+ student

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Texas Trans youth protest anti-Trans policies and laws at state capitol Spring 2021 (Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

By Steven Monacelli | GRAPEVINE, Tx. – The parking lot was packed Monday evening when I arrived at the administrative headquarters of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD), from which I graduated over a decade ago.

Four pop-up tents had been set up in the parking lot by conservative activist groups who held a tailgate party ahead of the meeting. Among the tailgaters was Julie McCarty, the founder of the True Texas Project, a right-wing group descended from the NE Tarrant Tea Party that’s been designated an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We had a huge party in the parking lot to celebrate our victories & enjoy awesome community spirit,” wrote True Texas Project CEO Julie McCarty on Twitter. “Thank you @GCISD & thank you to the @TrueTXProject peeps who supported!”

Immediately outside the building entrance, a handful of students from the district held protest signs. “Our existence is not a controversy,” one sign read. “Let trans kids live, we aren’t threats,” said another.

What drew both groups to the suburban school district meeting in Tarrant County was a 36-page document of proposed district policies that was publicly released only 72 hours earlier. The proposals were championed by the school board’s four-member conservative majority, recently elected with the help of a flood of dark money, part of a nationwide trend in which crusading reactionaries have turned school boards into perches from which to wage war on literature, queer children, and non-existent curricula. Most controversially, the GCISD policies include a total ban on employees engaging in any discussion of what the district defines as “gender fluidity.” 

“I AM PART OF THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY, AS ARE MANY OF MY FRIENDS THAT REMAIN IN THE GCISD SCHOOLS. THE POLICIES YOU ARE PROPOSING ARE PUTTING THEM IN DANGER.”

“For purposes of this policy, ‘Gender Fluidity’ means any theory or ideology that (1) espouses the view that biological sex is merely a social construct, (2) espouses the view that it is possible for a person to be any gender or none (i.e. non-binary) based solely on that person’s feelings or preferences, or (3) espouses the view that an individual’s biological sex should be changed to ‘match’ a self-believed gender that is different from the person’s biological sex,” the measure reads.

Other policies include a ban on “equity audits” across the district and draconian rules on what books are allowed in libraries and classrooms. The language around “inappropriate material” in libraries is particularly vague, defining it in part as “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors.”

The policies are described by proponents as designed to ensure the district complies with state and federal laws, such as the laws passed by the Texas Legislature explicitly banning the teaching of “critical race theory” in classrooms. Critics, such as the ACLU of Texas, deride the policies as blatantly anti-LGTBQ+ and note that parts of the policies in fact go beyond what is required by state law.

Nearly two hundred people had signed up to speak during the public comment period, a record-breaking number according to board member Jorge Rodríguez. Testimony lasted nearly four hours. Students, parents, alumni, and outside activists alike were each given a mere sixty seconds to voice their opinion on the proposed policies prior to the final vote. Most said they were residents of the district. A few were activists with far-right groups like True Texas Project, Protect Texas Kids, and even the John Birch Society

“MANY ALREADY FEEL THAT THEY HAVE TO SUPPRESS THEIR GENDER EXPRESSION IN PUBLIC AND FEAR DISCRIMINATION.”

In terms of the “prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole,” the room was clearly divided. Simple statements of thanks to the board, heartfelt pleas to reconsider the policies, and deranged chest beatings were all on display. One man, Scott Western, shocked some in the room when he delivered a deeply homophobic rant in favor of the policies.

“Fight like hell, hold the line against the LGBT mafia and their dang pedo fans. Keep winning. You know what, keep the winning, they can keep the monkeypox,” Western said. “Woo! Get some. Thank you.”

Western received no condemnation from the board, but one man was warned and eventually ejected by the board president for clapping after speeches in opposition to the policies.

Some of the most compelling speeches came from students and alumni of the district who urged the district to reconsider the proposed measures. “Many already feel that they have to suppress their gender expression in public and fear discrimination,” said one high school junior. “Schools everywhere and in GCISD are supposed to make everyone feel included and safe.”

Another student’s speech personalized that concern in a particularly dramatic fashion.

“I transferred to another district this year because of the culture of fear you continue to create,” the student said. “I am part of the LGBTQ+ community, as are many of my friends that remain in the GCISD schools. The policies you are proposing are putting them in danger. So, what are we afraid of? No, let me rephrase. What are you afraid of?”

“THESE BOARD MEETINGS HAVE JUST BECOME HEADQUARTERS FOR POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON WHAT WE ARE HERE TO DO, WHICH IS TO HELP STUDENTS SUCCEED.”

After the public comment period concluded, the four conservative members—in keeping with their apparent disdain for free speech—voted to limit comment from the trustees to three minutes each. One opposed member, Rodríguez, tore into the proposal. 

“Now we have a war against librarians, a war against LGTBQ+ students and teachers, and that is why I’m voting against these policies,” Rodríguez said. “We’ve heard from many citizens concerned about these policies, and in years past we don’t get to this point because we go to the community and ask for feedback and input. … I believe this is all political. These board meetings have just become headquarters for political campaigns instead of focusing on what we are here to do, which is to help students succeed.”

Conservative member Tammy Nakamura defended the policies as a justified response to what she sees as the politicization of education and the “overt and nefarious infiltration of social and cultural propaganda in the curriculum, none more damaging to young minds and bodies than the madness of so-called Gender Fluidity Ideology.” 

“Simply put, with the passage of these policies, we have neutralized our classrooms,” Nakamura said. “They will no longer be used as weapons against free market capitalism, against national pride and unity, against traditional American values, and against the biological and social identity of our children.”

At the end of the trustee statements, with less than five hours of public discussion, the proposed policies were all passed by the same 4-3 margin that limited discussion about them.

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Steven Monacelli is an investigative journalist in Dallas. His reporting has been featured in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, The Real News, Dallas Observer, Dallas Weekly, and more. He is also the publisher of Protean Magazine, a nonprofit literary publication. Follow him on Twitter @stevanzetti.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Observer a nonprofit investigative news outlet and is republished by permission.

The Texas Observer believes that journalism is crucial to holding the powerful accountable and essential in the development of a world that protects the lives, and rights, of all human beings. It’s with this spirit that they hope to partner, collaborate and share resources with news outlets also working in the public’s interest.

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Court issues 2nd injunction, blocks Texas investigating more Trans families

The injunction bars DFPS from investigating these families based solely on allegations that they are providing gender affirming care

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Travis County District Courthouse, Austin Texas (Photo Credit: County of Travis, Texas government)

AUSTIN – The Travis County District Court entered a second injunction on Friday against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and Commissioner Masters, barring them from implementing the agency’s rule expanding the definition of child abuse to presumptively treat the provision of gender affirming care as child abuse.

Friday’s action blocks Texas DFPS from investigating against two more families, Mirabel Voe and her son Antonio, and Wanda Roe and her son Tommy.

The injunction bars DFPS from implementing the rule by investigating these families based solely on allegations that they are providing gender affirming care to their adolescents, or taking any action in open investigations other than to close them so long as DFPS can do so without making further contact with the families. The Court is still considering the request for additional injunctive relief to protect the other clients, the Briggle family and Texas PFLAG members with transgender children.

Today’s ruling came in the lawsuit, PFLAG v. Abbott, filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, and the law firm of Baker Botts LLP. The legal organizations issued the following statement:

“We are gratified that the Court reiterated that the DFPS rule is unlawful and changed the status quo for Texas transgender youth and their families. The Court recognized yet again that being subjected to an unlawful and unwarranted investigation causes irreparable harm for these families who are doing nothing more than caring for and affirming their children and seeking the best course of care for them in consultation with their medical providers. We are confident that the Court will continue to recognize those harms as it considers the injunction we have requested for PFLAG families, including the Briggles.

“An hour after the District Court’s ruling, Texas has already filed an appeal, seeking permission to continue their persecution of transgender youth and their families. But every court to consider the actions of these Texas officials has recognized both their unlawfulness and the irreparable harms they cause to these families. We will not stop fighting until all Texas families are protected.

Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National also noted in a statement released late Friday afternoon:

“For nearly 50 years, LGBTQ+ people and their families have turned to PFLAG for support in the face of government harm, and have found community and safety within our organization. We are heartened that the Court recognized that Governor Abbott’s order is harmful, and hopeful that the Court will find similarly for PFLAG families. We remain committed to protecting the rights of trans kids and their families to make personal decisions for themselves, and to access gender-affirming care.”

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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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Texas

“Stop grooming the kids,” right-wing protests Dallas Drag event at gay bar

The organizers of the drag event billed it as a “family-friendly” drag queen story hour event at Mr. Misster

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Photo by Chad Mantooth, The Dallas Voice

DALLAS – The “Drag the kids to pride” drag show to kick off Pride month in Dallas, Texas found itself to be a flashpoint between anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing protesters, attendees of the event, and police at a popular gay bar and safe space in the city’s Oak Lawn neighborhood.

The organizers of the drag event billed it as a “family-friendly” drag queen story hour event at Mr. Misster, located at the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Reagan Street, but according to both The Dallas Voice, the local LGBTQ+ media outlet and Dallas–Fort Worth ABC News affiliate WFAA 8, protesters also showed up outside the event, some carrying signs that read “Stop grooming the kids” and “Stop exploiting kids,” and similar variations. 

According to WFAA ABC 8, During the event, drag performers danced and walked down the aisle in the center of the room. At times, the dancers would take dollar bills from some of the children. Kids also walked with the dancers down the aisle during the event.

Cannon Brown, a Dallas LGBTQ+ activist and founding former head of the Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats took to Facebook posting pictures of the protestors captioning the post with “Christofascists on Cedar Springs in front of Mr Mister. Get down here.”

Photos posted by The Dallas Voice journalist Tammye Nash, using photos by Chad Mantooth, show one protester carrying a sign declaring “confuse a child, abuse a child,” and another had a sign shouting “stop groomers.” Yet another demands, “Stop exploiting our kids.” And, in what is apparently a swipe at the rainbow power of Pride Month, one woman wore a black T-shirt with a block of rainbow colors saying “rainbow revival.”

Photo by Chad Mantooth

One woman who was protesting, Dasy, who didn’t want to give her last name, told WFAA ABC 8 that she first saw the poster for the event near where she lives. She was at the bar after the event with a “Stop grooming the kids” poster.

“I live in this community,” Dasy said. “I have for several years. I don’t believe that I should be seeing signs advertising for children to be dancing on stage with men in thongs and in inappropriate clothing and makeup. I do not in any way condone the behavior that these people are engaging in, but what drags me out here is its kids now.”

A media statement the venue released after the event noted:

“We host our Champagne Drag Brunch every Saturday at 2pm for guests that are 21+ but we have partnered with some of our major community partners to host a special Pride Drag Brunch for all guests, including guests that couldn’t normally attend our regular show because of the drinking age restriction, to raise money for a local LGBTQ+ youth organization.

We are more than happy to open our doors to celebrate Pride in a family friendly, safe environment, separate from our normal operations of 2 p.m. – 2 a.m. on Saturdays because we believe that everyone should have a space to be able to celebrate who they are.

Mr. Misster is a place where everyone is welcome to feel accepted, safe and included. We had a group of protestors outside yelling homophobic threats, transphobic remarks and vile accusations at these children and parents.

It is so sad to see that in 2022, there are people that still want to protests others celebrating who they are, but our staff and wonderful officers helped keep us safe and kept the protestors at bay.

In a statement provided by the anti-LGBTQ+ group Protect Texas Kids tried to claim that Dallas Police officials had “removed” the children from the drag show, which WFAA ABC 8 reported as untruthful, a fact verified by the Dallas Police Department.

A spokesperson for the police department told media outlets that its officers showed up to “assist with crowd control” and help the crowd “disperse in a safe manner.”

“We decided to organize this protest when we saw advertising for the event a few weeks ago – we researched the bar and quickly found out that it’s a gay bar, and we were also pretty concerned when we saw the signage on the bar’s website that says “it’s not gonna lick itself.” We just launched our organization and this was our first event.  

The mission was to raise awareness that an event like this, a drag show for children, was happening right in Dallas. We also hoped that if we raised awareness, the event might be canceled or modified so that children couldn’t be present. 

We were very happy with how the event went overall. The police were able to come in and remove all of the children and their families from inside of the bar. There were a lot of people in attendance who didn’t have kids, so those people were able to stay and the event continued.”

According to WFAA ABC 8 Mr. Misster also said the bar had received several hundred threatening emails, nasty Google reviews and aggressive threating phone calls from protestors.

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