Legal Updates

Preserving best practice, life-saving healthcare for transgender youth after unlawful attacks from Attorney General and Governor in Texas

On February 22, 2022, Attorney General Ken Paxton released a non-binding opinion claiming that essential health care for transgender youth is “child abuse” under Texas law. The next day, Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate families of transgender youth who receive gender-affirming health care. Later that day, DFPS Commissioner Jamie Masters, said that the department would investigate families for providing this care. 

These leaders’ actions were a cruel attack on vital and life-saving health care that is supported and endorsed by every major medical association in the United States and decades of scientific research. Texas law has not changed; gender-affirming health care is still fully legal in Texas; and no one should report transgender youth simply for receiving this life-saving care. Any teachers, health care providers, and other mandatory reporters can access more information here.

Since March, we have won more than ten court orders at the district, appellate, and Texas Supreme Court finding that Abbott, Masters, and DFPS’s actions are likely unlawful and caused irreparable harm. 

You can read more about these cases below. To see all of these decisions and case filings, you can visit the case pages at ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal.

Doe I v. Abbott 

Within days of Abbott’s directive and DFPS’s statement, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Texas filed suit, along with the law firm Baker Botts, to protect transgender young people’s right to receive essential health care. 

On May 13, the Texas Supreme Court mostly upheld these lower court orders and dealt a serious blow to Abbott’s directive by finding that he has no authority to rewrite Texas law or change the definition of child abuse in our state. The Texas Supreme Court also narrowed the scope of relief in that lawsuit to the specific parties in the case—the Doe family and Dr. Megan Mooney, a licensed psychologist and mandatory reporter of child abuse under Texas law.

The court orders for the Doe family and Dr. Mooney are still in effect, and the reasoning in those orders applies to all families and mandatory reporters across the state. These decisions are not yet final and the case remains fully briefed and ongoing before the Texas Third Court of Appeals.

Click here to read the coalition's statement in the Doe I v. Abbott case.

 

PFLAG v. Abbott

The Texas Supreme Court’s narrowing of the injunction prompted a second lawsuit to be filed, PFLAG v. Abbott. After that decision was issued, we learned of more DFPS investigations being pushed forward into life-saving care for transgender youth. DFPS investigators pulled transgender students out of class at public schools to question them about their private medical care and launched intrusive investigations in families’ homes.

On July 8, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU of Texas, along with Texas-based law firm Baker Botts LLP, filed a new lawsuit in Texas state court on behalf of PFLAG National and three Texas families who faced DFPS investigations. 

PFLAG joined the effort to stop these harms because PFLAG’s mission is to create a caring, equitable world where LGBTQ+ people are safe, empowered, and loved, and it is the first and largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families. Along with PFLAG, we are collectively fighting to ensure that every member of PFLAG in Texas is protected from unwarranted and lawless investigations into essential health care for transgender youth; and anyone who is interested in joining or learning more about PFLAG can learn more here.

The Travis County District Court issued an injunction for two families in July and another injunction for PFLAG and an additional family in September. The Attorney General appealed these decisions and the Texas Third court of Appeals granted temporary relief to reinstate these orders. This means that DFPS cannot investigate or take any action against PFLAG members and their families for providing medically necessary care to transgender youth. This decision is not yet final as this case continues on appeal.


PFLAG v. Abbott FAQ from PFLAG

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Transgender young people and their families have beaten back Abbott and Paxton repeatedly over the past few months, but this fight is far from over. These court cases could continue for months or even years to come, and we know that extreme conservatives are still fixated on attacking transgender youth this next legislative session.

Please join us in advocating for and supporting transgender youth, and contact the Lambda Legal Help Desk if you or someone in your family is receiving gender-affirming care and have questions or face the possibility of being contacted by DFPS. We have lawyers standing by ready to help, and all of us are committed to making Texas a safe and welcoming place for all. 

Become an advocate today to help defend the rights of all trans people in Texas, especially kids.

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