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Texas Still Investigating Trans-Supportive Families for 'Child Abuse'

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

After a mixed ruling on the matter from the Texas Supreme Court, families are saying they've again been contacted by child welfare authorities.

Texas child welfare authorities are again investigating parents who allow their transgender children access to gender-affirming care, with the rationale that such care is child abuse.

The Texas Supreme Court had offered a mixed ruling May 13 in a suit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott's order that started the investigations. It lifted an injunction placed by a lower court on enforcement of the order while the lawsuit is heard, but it also said the policies of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services were at the discretion of that agency, not the governor. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton could offer advice to the DFPS, but the agency was not obligated to follow it.

However, lawyers for families under investigation recently told The Texas Tribune they had been contacted by DFPS officials and told that the probes would continue. "They reached back out and said they need to finish their investigations," attorney Tracy Harting said. "I've talked to my clients, and now they have to decide how they want to proceed."

In February, Abbott ordered DFPS to begin the investigations, based on a nonbinding legal opinion issued by Paxton that characterized gender-affirming care as abuse. The opinion has been criticized as unscientific and politically biased. Abbott and Paxton are both far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ Republicans.

In March, Texas Civil District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum granted a restraining order stopping the investigation of the family who filed the lawsuit, identified only as the Does, and psychologist Megan Mooney while their case is heard. The following week, she extended the restraining order statewide. An appeals court upheld her decision, but the state Supreme Court said the appeals body had overstepped its bounds.

Paxton touted the Supreme Court ruling as a win, but civil rights groups pointed to the portion of the ruling that said Paxton and Abbott could not directly control DFPS policies. Now, though, it appears that DFPS is going along with the elected officials.

One mother, identified only as L., told NBC News she heard Monday from a DFPS employee who said the investigation into her family would resume. L. has a transgender son who has turned 18, but DFPS told her the family could be investigated retroactively for care her son received as a minor. The person who called her Monday said there were "new allegations."

"I think they're trying to make an example of me, because I'm a social worker too," L., who works with families who have experienced homelessness, told NBC. "So it's more about the career. You can't take my kid. He's 18. He can live wherever he wants."

"I really, honestly thought we were going to get closed out pretty quick or they would just leave it pending to see how this court case goes, but apparently, nope," she added. "This is really messed up."

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