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ACLU, Lambda Legal sue to block Texas from investigating parents of transgender children

Recently, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate gender-affirming care for transgender youth as child abuse.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: On March 2, a judge in Austin ruled that the State of Texas cannot, for now, enforce actions targeting parents of a transgender teen. Another hearing is set for the week of March 7.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is hoping to block a controversial new directive from the Texas governor regarding gender-affirming care for transgender children.

On Tuesday, the ACLU, ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal asked a Texas court to block the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their children with gender-affirming care. The lawsuit names Gov. Greg Abbott, who recently issued a directive to the DFPS saying that such care should be investigated as "abusive." 

The directive came one day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion stating that child gender modification procedures should be treated as abuse.

According to an ACLU of Texas press release, the lawsuit also names DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and the DFPS as defendants. The lawsuit claims that these recent directives were issued without proper authority, "in violation of the Texas Administrative Procedures Act, the separation of powers requirements of the Texas Constitution, and the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents."

"Families with trans kids in Texas have been under attack for too long. Gender-affirming health care saved my life, and other trans Texans should be able to access medically necessary, lifesaving care," said Adri Pérez, a policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas.

According to the release, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of a DFPS employee with a transgender child, her husband and the child herself. According to the complaint, this family has already had an investigator arrive at their house. The family has filed the lawsuit anonymously.

The release also states that Dr. Megan Mooney, "a licensed psychologist who is considered a mandatory reporter under Texas law and cannot comply with the governor’s directive without harming her clients and violating her ethical obligations," is also a plaintiff in the suit.

"For Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, it seems the cruelty is the point,” said Paul Castillo, senior counsel with Lambda Legal. “They are joining a politically motivated misinformation campaign with no consideration of medical science and seem determined to criminalize parents seeking to care and provide for their kids, and medical professionals abiding by accepted standards of care for transgender youth. Gender-affirming care for the treatment of gender dysphoria is medically necessary care, full stop. Criminalizing that care and threatening to tear children from their families is unconscionable and terrifying, and cannot stand."

Read the full release.

The Texas Tribune reports that the judge is expected to rule on the request by the end of the day Wednesday.

Several major entities – including South by Southwest – have spoken out against the directive from the governor and the attorney general. Republican leaders on Monday called on Abbott to set a special session for legislative action regarding the directive.

The ACLU lawsuit was announced on Tuesday, March 1, which is Election Day for the 2022 Texas primary election. Both Abbott and Paxton are running for re-election this year.

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