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Tennessee Families Ask Supreme Court to Block Gender-Affirming Care Ban

Transgender Rights Rally and U.S. Supreme Court Building Equal Justice Under Law Statue
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If the high court takes up the case, it would be the first one it hears on gender-affirming care.

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Transgender youth, their families, and a doctor in Tennessee have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block enforcement of the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors.

The lawyers in the case, from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, filed the request with the high court Wednesday. They seek to restore a preliminary injunction that would keep the law from being enforced while a lawsuit against it makes its way through the courts, so even if the Supreme Court takes up the request, it won’t be the last word. This is the first petition to the Supreme Court on the issue.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed the law in March. It bans the provision of puberty blockers, hormones, and surgeries for people under 18 for the purpose of gender transition. Young people already on the treatment have to end it by March 31 of next year.

Families with trans children, along with a doctor, filed the suit, known as L.W. v. Skrmetti (Jonathan Skrmetti is Tennessee’s attorney general), in April. Judge Eli Richardson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted a preliminary injunction in June. However, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted that in September, along with an injunction blocking enforcement of a similar law in Kentucky. The Sixth Circuit covers Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. The petition filed with the Supreme Court seeks review of the Sixth Circuit’s decision.

“It’s hard to overstate the difference that our daughter’s medical treatment has made in her life and our family’s life,” Samantha Williams of Nashville, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said in a press release. “Before coming out and starting to receive this medical care, she struggled to make friends, keep her grades up, or even accept hugs from her family. Now we have a confident, happy daughter who is free to be herself. We know that her gender-affirming medical care is ensuring she can thrive, which is the most important thing to us as parents. I want the justices to see and understand my daughter and recognize her rights under the Constitution like any other person, and to see that if parents like me don’t have the right to determine what’s best for our children, then no parent does.”

“I’m fighting this law because I know how important this care is for tens of thousands of transgender youth like me,” added 15-year-old L.W., Samantha and Brian Williams’s daughter. “It scares me to think about losing the medication that I need and if this law continues, my family may have to leave Tennessee — the place I have lived and loved my entire life. And with so many new laws like Tennessee’s, it is hard to imagine where we can even go. I want the justices to know transgender people are not going away and that we deserve the same rights as everyone else.”

“In just the last year, transgender people and our families have had our rights and our lives radically rewritten by politicians with a chosen ignorance of the facts of our lives and medical care,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “Tens of thousands of transgender youth like L.W. are at risk of losing the medical care that serves as the foundation of their entire life because of brand new laws that target them and only them. These laws not only destabilize the lives of transgender youth but also disrupt their families and communities and threaten established legal protections with far-reaching implications. The justices have an opportunity to follow long-standing precedent and block Tennessee’s dangerous law.”

Twenty-two states have banned some or all gender-affirming care for trans youth. Several of these laws have been blocked by federal courts, and one, in Arkansas, has been struck down, but that ruling is on appeal.

The Supreme Court probably won’t decide whether to hear the Tennessee petition until next year, the lawyers in the case say.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.