Legal Restrictions on Gender-Affirming Care for Youths
In February of 2022, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement equating gender-affirming care of transgender children to child abuse. This statement was echoed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott who directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to open investigations into parents who provide this care. Abbott urged teachers, doctors, and the general public to report instances of parents providing this type of care. Following this order, DFPS opened investigations into at least nine families.
In March, one of these cases came before Judge Amy Clark Meachum who issued a temporary restraining order related to the parties of that case, which was later expanded to a statewide injunction against these investigations. In this case, the plaintiffs are anonymous John and Jane Doe, parents of a transgender child who have been investigated in regards to their teenager receiving gender-affirming care. The mother, Jane Doe, is an employee of DFPS and is at risk of losing her job and has been placed on administrative leave due to the investigation. Also included in the suit is a psychologist, Megan Mooney, who states that Abbott’s order is a violation of her ethical obligations. Mooney could face civil suits if she complies with the order, or face prosecution if she does not. She has also testified to the impact that this will have on rates of depression and other mental health issues.
Paxton appealed the injunction to the Third Court of Appeals who upheld the ruling of the lower court and reinstated the statewide temporary injunction. However, in May, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that the appellate court had overstepped on procedural grounds. The Court stated that while the appellate court can reinstate an injunction to preserve the parties’ rights, the party at issue here is the parents directly involved in the suit, not all parents of transgender children in the state. The Supreme Court also issued additional restrictions on Paxton and Abbott’s order stating, “DFPS’s preliminary authority to investigate allegations does not entail the ultimate authority to interfere with parents’ decisions about their children, decisions which enjoy some measure of constitutional protection whether the government agrees with them or not.”
In light of this ruling, many Texans are concerned about what this means for their children receiving medical care, and for them as parents subject to investigation. This has resulted in an increase of families considering relocation, at least temporarily, as many hospitals shut down their programs for gender-affirming care for minors and DFPS begins to investigate again.
While Texas and other conservative-leaning states may restrict access to gender-affirming care, state laws will continue to protect gender identity and expression in Colorado. On May 20, 2021, Colorado H.B. 21-1108 was signed into law which expanded Colorado laws on anti-discrimination to protect “all regardless of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, or ancestry” in all places of public accommodation including schools.
Colorado also contains the only comprehensive care center in the Rocky Mountain region specifically set up for gender-diverse children, adolescents and young adults- the TRUE Center for Gender Diversity at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. Their multidisciplinary team includes experts in adolescent medicine, endocrinology, art therapy, nutrition, social work, psychology and other areas. Some services they offer include puberty-blocking medications, hormone therapy, gender counseling, nutrition services, referrals to therapy and support groups and assistance with legal name and gender marker changes.
As more states begin following Texas, Colorado promises to remain a safe haven for transgendered children, adolescents and adults.