Several transgender adolescents, their parents and guardians, and a doctor have sued the state of Oklahoma over its ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth, signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt Monday.
The suit alleges that Senate Bill 613 “unjustly and unfairly targets them and gender-affirming health care in violation of their rights under Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment,” says a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union, its Oklahoma affiliate, and Lambda Legal, which are representing the plaintiffs along with the law firm of Jenner & Block. It was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
The law bans all forms of gender-affirming care for the purpose of gender transition for people under 18, including hormones, puberty blockers, and surgeries, although genital surgery is almost never performed on minors and the other treatments are supported by ever major medical association. The treatments are allowed for young people who were born with ambiguous genitalia or have other conditions necessitating the care but who do not wish to transition.
It takes effect immediately, although trans youth already receiving hormones or puberty blockers have six months in which to cease treatment. Penalties for violation include felony charges, revocation of license, and civil lawsuits, which can be brought by a parent or guardian. At least 15 other states have enacted similar laws.
Defendants named in the suit include Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond and numerous medical officials and regulators.
“Oklahoma has singled out transgender adolescents by enacting a discriminatory and categorical prohibition on medical treatments for transgender adolescents that are available to others,” the suit states. “In so doing, Oklahoma has endangered the health and wellbeing of transgender adolescents in Oklahoma.”
“The Health Care Ban’s targeted prohibition on medically necessary care for transgender adolescents with gender dysphoria is based on generalized fears, negative attitudes, stereotypes, and moral disapproval of transgender people, which are not legitimate bases for unequal treatment under any level of scrutiny,” it continues.
It notes that this is not the only law Oklahoma has passed against gender-affirming care. Last year, Stitt signed legislation withholding federal funds made available under the American Rescue Plan Act from the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and its Children’s Hospital unless they cease providing gender-affirming medications or surgeries to trans people under 18. The medical providers agreed to the terms. The suit seeks to stop the enforcement of this policy as well as the overall ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.
“Every Oklahoman should have the freedom to access the care they need to survive and thrive, but once again, instead of deciding to boldly lead our state, Governor Stitt and members of the legislator have decided to risk the lives of one of our most vulnerable populations, to score political points with their base,” ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Megan Lambert said in the press release. “Oklahoma consistently ushers in the bottom of almost every list nationwide, from education and incarceration to healthcare and privacy, but lawmakers choose to spend their time pushing dangerous rhetoric on topics they know nothing about and attacking transgender children, instead of addressing the real issues Oklahomans face day to day. We all deserve the freedom to control our bodies and seek the healthcare we need, including gender-affirming care. The ACLU of Oklahoma and our partners have warned lawmakers that we will take swift action on any ban on gender-affirming care signed into law, and today is the day we make good on that promise.”
“This law is a dangerous attack on the rights of families and their transgender youth who call Oklahoma home,” added Harper Seldin, staff attorney for the national ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “Governor Stitt and the politicians targeting trans youth have ignored the voices of parents, medical providers, and transgender youth themselves, instead choosing to put their politics between doctors and their patients. We’re confident the state will find itself completely incapable of defending this law in court and welcome the opportunity to fight for the safety, dignity, and equality of trans Oklahomans.”
“Based on nothing but animus towards transgender people and a campaign of misinformation and disinformation, Oklahoma officials have decided to prohibit the provision of necessary, safe, and effective evidence-based medical care for trans adolescents in Oklahoma. These actions risk the health, well-being, and very lives of trans youth in the Sooner State,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, counsel and health care strategist at Lambda Legal. “We will not stand idly by as discriminatory laws endanger our community. Trans youth in Oklahoma and elsewhere deserve no less. We are proud to represent, alongside our co-counsel, these five courageous families and a caring doctor, who together are standing up for their rights.”