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Texas Investigates Parents of Teen Under Anti-Trans Law, ACLU & Lambda Legal Sue

Texas Investigates Parents of Teen Under Anti-Trans Law, ACLU & Lambda Legal Sue

Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton
From left: Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton

"No family should have to fear being torn apart because they are supporting their trans child," said an ACLU of Texas representative.

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The American Civil Liberties Union, its Texas affiliate, and Lambda Legal have sued to block Texas officials from investigating parents who allow their children access to gender-affirming care prescribed by their doctors -- and such investigations have already started.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week directed the state's Department of Family and Protective Services to begin investigating parents in these cases, noting that Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued a legal opinion terming such care "child abuse." The move has drawn outrage from parents of transgender children, activists, businesses, and celebrities. Texas legislators last year considered a bill to this effect, but it failed to pass. Some Texas prosecutors have already said they will not bring charges against parents.

In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Travis County court in Texas, the ACLU and Lambda represent an employee of DFPS with a trans child, her husband, and the teen herself, all of whom are remaining anonymous, referred to as Jane, John, and Mary Doe. An investigator has already come to the family's house, according to the suit, and has demanded medical records the family refused to turn over. The Does appear to be one of the first families investigated.

Megan Mooney, a licensed psychologist who is considered a mandatory reporter under Texas law and cannot comply with the governor's directive without harming her clients and violating her ethical obligations, is also a plaintiff in the suit.

"Plaintiffs in this suit will face imminent and irreparable harms absent intervention by the Court," the complaint reads. "Specifically, Jane Doe has already been placed on administrative leave at work and is at risk of losing her job, her livelihood, and the means of caring for her family. Jane, John and Mary Doe face the imminent and ongoing deprivation of their constitutional rights. Mary faces the potential loss of her medically necessary care, which if abruptly discontinued can cause severe physical and emotional harms, including anxiety, depression, and suicidality. If placed on the Child Abuse Registry, Jane could lose the ability to practice her profession, and Jane and John Doe would be barred from ever working with children, including as volunteers in their community. Absent intervention by this court, Dr. Mooney could face civil suit by patients for failing to treat them in accordance with professional standards and loss of licensure for failing to follow her professional ethics, if she complies with Defendants' orders and actions. If she does not comply with Defendants' orders, Dr. Mooney could face immediate criminal prosecution."

The suit seeks an immediate restraining order and, within 14 days, a temporary injunction against the enforcement of Abbott's order, and then a permanent injunction after a trial on the merits of the case.

Abbott is named as a defendant in the suit, as is the DFPS and its commissioner, Jaime Masters. The suit alleges that Abbott's order was issued without proper authority, in violation of the Texas Administrative Procedures Act, the separation of powers requirements of the Texas Constitution, and the constitutional rights of trans youth and their parents.

"No family should have to fear being torn apart because they are supporting their trans child," Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said in a press release. "A week before an election, Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a partisan political attack that isn't rooted in the needs of families, the evidence from doctors and the expertise from child welfare professionals. Families with trans kids in Texas have been under attack for too long. Gender-affirming health care saved my life, and other trans Texans should be able to access medically necessary, lifesaving care."

Abbott and Paxton, both Republicans, are seeking reelection, and in Tuesday's primary, both are facing challengers even farther to the right than they are.

"For Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, it seems the cruelty is the point," added Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Paul Castillo. "They are joining a politically motivated misinformation campaign with no consideration of medical science and seem determined to criminalize parents seeking to care and provide for their kids, and medical professionals abiding by accepted standards of care for transgender youth. Gender-affirming care for the treatment of gender dysphoria is medically necessary care, full stop. Criminalizing that care and threatening to tear children from their families is unconscionable and terrifying, and cannot stand."

"These efforts to cut off and criminalize necessary health care for transgender minors are in direct conflict with the recommendations of medical professionals and have nothing to do with what's best for trans youth," said Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. "They may be escalating, but these attacks are not new. Trans youth need you to take the fury you have over what's happening in Texas and share it with lawmakers in every state that is trying to make it harder for trans youth to survive."

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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.