Indiana has joined the parade of states banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors — but the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to block the ban.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 480 into law Wednesday, banning surgeries, hormone treatment, and puberty blockers for the purpose of gender transition for anyone under 18.
Holcomb had expressed some doubt about the bill just a day earlier, the Associated Press reports. “It wasn’t part of my agenda,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve told some people very close to me: This is clear as mud. There’s some vagueness to it. So I want to make sure I completely understand.”
But he has now signed it. “Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not as a minor,” Holcomb said in a Wednesday statement, according to the AP.
Genital surgery is almost never performed on minors, but other transition-related care for youth is endorsed by the American Medical Association and every other major health care group.
The law is scheduled to go into effect July 1, but young people already taking medication for transition have until the end of the year to cease the treatment. Unlike a bill signed into law in Idaho Tuesday, the Indiana measure does not subject health care professionals to criminal penalties. It instead provides for discipline by licensing bodies and allows those who’ve received the care to sue.
The ACLU, however, has already sued Indiana over the new law. The national ACLU and its Indiana affiliate are representing four trans youth and their families, plus a doctor and a health care clinic. They filed the suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, naming various state officials and members of Indiana’s medical licensing board as defendants.
They seek to block the law’s enforcement and have it declared unconstitutional. The suit alleges the law “violates the U.S. Constitution on multiple fronts, including the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” says an ACLU press release. “In addition, the lawsuit claims that the law violates the federal requirements of the Medicaid Act and the Affordable Care Act, because it prohibits essential medical services that would otherwise be authorized and reimbursed by Medicaid.”
“This law would be devastating to trans youth and their families, causing them serious injuries and forcing those who can to uproot their lives and leave the state to access the gender-affirming care they need,” Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, said in the release. “Gender-affirming care is lifesaving care for our clients, and they’re terrified of what will happen if this law is allowed to take effect. No child should be cut off from the medical care they need or denied their fundamental right to be themselves — but this law would do both. We’re suing to stop this cruel and unconstitutional law from taking effect and inflicting further harm on these children and their families.”
“We are honored to fight alongside these plaintiff families and medical providers to challenge this unconstitutional and illegal intrusion into the rights of adolescents, their parents, and the medical providers who care for them,” added Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “As we have seen across the country, these laws do not stand up when tested in court. This care is well-studied and widely accepted. And we know as trans people who have benefited from this treatment that stripping it away from us only causes harm and does nothing to protect children.”
The Human Rights Campaign condemned the new law as well. “Governor Holcomb’s decision to sign this gender-affirming care ban into law is about nothing more than prioritizing politics over the well-being of transgender youth in Indiana,” said a statement from Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel. “This law will deny critical, age-appropriate medical care to transgender youth, putting their health and well-being at risk. The transgender community is being subjected to a legislative onslaught in states across the country, and it is truly appalling that radical politicians in Indiana are joining in on this harmful campaign that will only make life more difficult for transgender youth and their loved ones. We condemn this heartless attack on transgender youth and urge Governor Holcomb and state lawmakers to reverse course and prioritize the safety of all Hoosiers, including transgender youth. As legislators continue to consider other discriminatory bills, we will continue the fight to ensure that all Hoosiers are treated fairly and equally under the law.”
Other states that states have outlawed most or all gender-affirming care for trans minors through legislation are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, South DakotaTennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. Florida has put a ban in place through its medical boards and is considering a bill for an even stricter measure. The Alabama and Arkansas bans are temporarily blocked by court action. Bans are pending in several other states.