Judge blocks Texas from investigating supportive parents of trans teen for child abuse

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Person holds up a sign reading ‘Protect Trans Youth’ during a march. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty)

A Texas judge has temporarily blocked the state from performing a child abuse investigation on a family seeking gender-affirming care for their trans child.

District judge Amy Clark Meachum granted a temporary order on Wednesday (2 March) halting the investigation by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) into the parents of a trans teen.

Meachum ruled the family would “suffer irreparable injury” unless the DFPS was “immediately restrained from enforcing” such investigations.

However, the court stopped short of preventing the state from looking into other reports about trans children receiving gender-affirming care.

But Meachum did schedule a hearing for 11 March to decide whether to issue a broader temporary order to block other such investigations.

The ACLU, the ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on Tuesday (1 March) on behalf of the family of a 16-year-old whose mother works for DFPS, which is responsible for evaluating cases of child abuse.

According to the lawsuit, the mother had been suspended and is potentially at risk of losing her job after Texas governor Greg Abbott ordered that DFPS investigate the parents and guardians of trans youth for “child abuse”.

The district court ruled that the mother, if placed on the child abuse registry, could “lose the ability to practice her profession” and both parents could “lose their ability to work with minors and volunteer in their community”.

Meachum added the family would also “face the imminent and ongoing deprivation of their constitutional rights, the potential loss of necessary medical care and the stigma attached to being the subject of an unfounded child abuse investigation”.

ACLU of Texas attorney Brian Klosterboer said the LGBT+ legal groups “appreciate the relief granted to our clients”, but he said “this should have never happened and is unfathomably cruel”.

“Families should not have to fear being separated because they are providing the best possible health care for their children,” Klosterboer said.

He continued: “The elected leaders and agencies of this state should not play politics with people’s lives.

“We will do all that’s possible to stop these abuses of power and ensure transgender young people can receive medically recommended treatment.”

“We are relieved that – at least for now – the threat of a child abuse investigation is no longer hanging over the heads of the family members in this case,” said Paul Castillo, senior counsel for Lambda Legal.

He said it was “unconscionable” for DFPS to “still pursue any investigation or inflict more trauma and harm”.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ and HIV Project, described the temporary block as a “critical victory” and an “important first step” in stopping “egregious and illegal actions” from Texas officials.

“Transgender youth in Texas should be able to access life-saving, medically necessary care with the support of their families and doctors,” he added. “Attempts to cut off transgender adolescents from care will not make them any less trans, but it will make them less likely to grow up at all.”

Dr Megan Mooney, a licensed psychologist, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Mooney is considered to be a mandatory reporter under Texas law and has worked with trans youth for the last 15 years.

But she has said that she can’t comply with the governor’s directive without harming her clients as well as violating her ethical obligations in the profession.

The district court found Mooney could face lawsuits from her patients for “failing to treat them in accordance with professional standards and loss of licensure for failing to follow her professional ethics” if she complied with the orders from Texas state officials.

It also acknowledged that she would face “immediate criminal prosecution” if she failed to comply with the state’s orders.

Mooney told the Guardian that she wasn’t surprised by the anti-trans directive from Abbott and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton. She said the directives from the state’s top lawmakers “felt like a gut punch” as the “language is so inflammatory”, “so hurtful” and “so factually incorrect”.

Mooney described seeing an “absolute panic” among mental health groups, children and family as a result of the directives.

She shared that she had been “fielding questions” from her clients and their parents about what they should do if state officials arrive at their home, if they need to get an attorney or even if they should move out of state.

“The notices have such inflammatory language and sound like they’re enforceable, so citizens of Texas are worried about being reported for child abuse when it’s just not necessary,” Mooney said.

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