A court in Texas granted a temporary restraining order Friday, which blocks the state's child protective services from investigating PFLAG families that allow their trans children to receive gender-affirming health care.
Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU of Texas, along with Texas-based law firm Baker Botts LLP filed the suit on behalf of PFLAG National.
The Travis County District Court's ruling will stop the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating the parents involved in the suit, according to a news release from the organizations. For those families, if they are contacted by the agency, they will only need to provide information on their PFLAG membership.
This week's lawsuit Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued an order in February that gender-affirming care provided to youth would be considered "child abuse." The suit also names DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS as defendants. That order came after the state's Attorney General, Ken Paxton, wrote an opinion that such health care is a form of abuse.
The opinion and the order came after the state legislature failed to pass a bill classifying gender-affirming care as child abuse. Medical experts have criticized the opinion as unscientific and politically biased.
The day the order was issued, a trans teen whose mother is one of the plaintiffs in the suit attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of aspirin, the suit states. The teen, identified by the pseudonym Antonio Voe, said his attempt was motivated by the political environment, including Abbott's directive, and by being misgendered at school. He received psychiatric treatment, but staff at the facility where he received the care warned his mother that she might be investigated for child abuse, and indeed, they reported her to DFPS. A DFPS investigator came to her house and told her she was an "alleged perpetrator" of child abuse.
"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," Brian K. Bond, executive director of PFLAG National, said in the release. "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."
Another suit was filed to stop the investigations in March. A Texas judge ordered that the investigations cease while the suit is pending, and her ruling was upheld on appeal. But then the Texas Supreme Court ruled in May that the appeals court had overstepped its bounds. However, the high court also held that Abbott did not have the authority to set DFPS policy -- the governor could offer opinions and advice, but the decision about what to investigate was up to DFPS officials. Nevertheless, DFPS has resumed the probes.
"This is now the sixth time in recent months a Texas court has ruled in favor of transgender youth and their loving, supportive families." Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said. "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."
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 is for people of all ages and identities.