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Texas loses appeal over investigation of trans teen’s family

March 9, 2022 GMT

A Texas court on Wednesday tossed out the state’s appeal of an order preventing child welfare officials from investigating the parents of a transgender teenager over gender-confirming care the youth received.

The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals dismissed Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton’s appeal of the temporary order a judge issued last week halting the investigation by the Department of Family and Protective Services into the parents of the 16-year-old girl.

The court ruled that the judge’s temporary order was not appealable.

The parents sued over the investigation and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that officials look into reports of such treatments as abuse. The lawsuit marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott’s directive and an earlier nonbinding legal opinion by Paxton labeling certain gender-confirming treatments as “child abuse.”

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Paxton on Wednesday also filed a challenge in federal court to guidance that President Joe Biden’s administration issued in response to the Texas governor’s directive.

The appeals court’s decision clears the way for the judge to hold a hearing on whether to issue a broader temporary order blocking enforcement of Abbott’s directive.

An attorney for the parents said at a court hearing last week that he has heard of at least two other families facing DFPS abuse investigations for gender-confirming care. A Dallas-area family said the department is investigating them, The 19th, a nonprofit news organization, reported Wednesday.

Texas Children’s Hospital has announced it will stop providing hormone therapies for transgender youth because of the governor’s order.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal. The groups also represent a clinical psychologist who has said the governor’s directive is forcing her to choose between reporting clients to the state or losing her license and other penalties.

The ACLU urged courts to halt the “egregious government overreach” of the investigations.

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“This crisis in Texas is continuing every day, with state leaders weaponizing the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate families, invade their privacy, and trample on the rights of parents simply for providing the best possible health care for their kids under the guidance of doctors and medical best practices,” Brian Klosterboer, ACLU of Texas attorney, said in a statement.

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. A federal judge last year blocked an Arkansas law prohibiting gender-confirming care for minors, and the state is appealing that decision.

In federal court, Paxton sought to amend a lawsuit he filed last year to also challenge guidance that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued last week in response to Texas’ order. The guidance said that despite Abbott’s order, health care providers are not required to disclose private patient information regarding gender-confirming care.

“The federal government does not have the authority to govern the medical profession and set family policies, including what may constitute child abuse in state family law courts,” Paxton said in a statement.

Paxton is seeking to add the challenge to a lawsuit he filed last year over Biden administration guidance requiring employers to offer certain protections to transgender workers.