A Texas judge on Friday blocked the state from investigating gender-confirming care for transgender youths as child abuse.
District Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from enforcing Republican Governor Greg Abbott's directive to compel the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate reports of youths receiving such care.
The injunction broadens Meachum's earlier order blocking the state's investigation of the parents of one transgender teenager. The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal sued on behalf of the parents of the 16-year-old girl over the investigation and Abbott's directive. Meachum scheduled a trial for July 11 on the challenge to Abbott's directive.
Meachum ruled that by issuing the directive without a new law or rule, the governor's and officials' actions "violate separation of powers by impermissibly encroaching into the legislative domain."
The lawsuit marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott's directive and an earlier nonbinding legal opinion by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton labeling certain gender-confirming treatments as "child abuse." DFPS said it had opened nine investigations following the directive and opinion.
"The court's decisive ruling today brings some needed relief to trans youth in Texas, but we cannot stop fighting," Brian Klosterboer, ACLU of Texas attorney, said in a statement after the ruling.
The groups also represent a clinical psychologist who has said the governor's directive forces her to choose between reporting clients to the state or losing her license and other penalties.
Abbott's directive "singles out these families for targeted scrutiny, it stigmatizes them, invades their privacy and it interferes with the fundamental right of parents to make the decision of what's best for their child," Paul Castillo, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, said during the daylong hearing before Meachum.
Paxton said he planned to appeal the judge's ruling. "I'll win this fight to protect our Texas children," he tweeted.
The governor's directive and Paxton's opinion go against the nation's largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions on transgender people filed in statehouses nationwide.
Arkansas last year became the first state to pass a law prohibiting gender-confirming treatments for minors, and Tennessee has approved a similar measure. A judge blocked Arkansas' law, and the state has appealed that ruling.
Meachum's ruling came the same day that dozens of major companies — including Apple, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Meta and Microsoft — criticized the Texas directive in a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News.
'Bad for business'
"The recent attempt to criminalize a parent for helping their transgender child access medically necessary, age-appropriate health care in the state of Texas goes against the values of our companies," read the ad, which used the headline "DISCRIMINATION IS BAD FOR BUSINESS."
Meachum issued her ruling after several hours of testimony in the parents' lawsuit challenging Abbott's directive.
A child protective services supervisor testified Friday that she resigned from the department because of concerns about the directive and said cases involving gender-confirming care were being treated differently than others.
Megan Mooney, a clinical psychologist also represented by the groups in the lawsuit, said the governor's directive has caused "outright panic" among mental health professionals and families of transgender youths.
"Parents are terrified that [child protective services] is going to come and question their children, or take them away," Mooney testified. "Mental health professionals are scared that we're either violating our standards and professional codes of conduct, or in violation of the law."
Family in lawsuit
The family that challenged Texas' directive was not identified by name in the lawsuit. The suit said the mother works for DFPS on the review of reports of abuse and neglect. The day of Abbott's order, she asked her supervisor how it would affect the agency's policy, according to the lawsuit.
The mother was placed on leave because she has a transgender daughter and the following day was informed her family would be investigated in accordance with the governor's directive, the suit said. The teen has received puberty-delaying medication and hormone therapy.
Advocates have said the directive has had a chilling effect on providers of gender-confirming care in the state. Texas Children's Hospital announced last week it will stop providing hormone therapies for transgender youths because of the governor's order.
Paxton earlier this week filed a challenge in federal court to guidelines President Joe Biden's administration issued in response to Texas' investigations. The guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that despite Abbott's order, health care providers are not required to disclose private patient information regarding gender-confirming care.