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Texas Supreme Court reverses injunction barring investigations of parents of transgender children for child abuse

In a mixed ruling, the court only upheld the injunction as it pertains to the one family that sued.

TEXAS, USA — The Texas Supreme Court has reversed an injunction that stopped the state from investigating parents of transgender children for child abuse, but upheld the injunction for the one family that sued the State. 

In March, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued opinions and letters, urging the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate parents who, at the direction of health care professionals, provide medical treatment to their adolescent transgender children.

The lawsuit in question shortly followed. The court opinion states that the plaintiffs are a married couple who's child is diagnosed with gender dysphoria and a doctor who treats children with similar diagnoses. The group sued the governor, the DFPS commissioner and DFPS, challenging the directive and the DFPS's authority to investigate their use of medical treatments deemed unlawful by Abbott.

A district court issued a temporary injunction that barred any action against the plaintiffs based on the directive and from investigating reports against anyone based solely on alleged child abuse as it related to the gender-affirming care directive.

The State appealed the decision and the court of appeals issued a temporary order reinstating the temporary injunction in its entirety. 

But the Texas Supreme Court ruled the appeals court overstepped its boundaries and does not have "general authority to reinstate temporary injunctions of any nature" and further stated "the court of appeals lacked any authority ... to afford relief to nonparties throughout the state."

The justices noted this is also the case for Abbott who "lacks authority to issue a binding 'directive' to DFPS."

The high court's rulings took four main actions: 

  1. Upheld the injunction to stop the State from investigating the family that originally sued the State and removed the governor from the lawsuit since he cannot enforce the law
  2. Declared the opinion from the attorney general stating DFPS should investigate families who provide transgender children with medical care as nonbinding
  3. Declared the statement from Abbott that DFPS should investigate families who provide transgender children with medical care as nonbinding 
  4. Stated the DFPS has the same discretion to investigate child abuse claims as it did prior to the AG's opinion and governor's letter. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal issued the following joint statement on Friday:

“Today’s decision is a win for our clients and the rule of law. The Texas Supreme Court made clear that the attorney general and governor do not have the authority to order DFPS to take any action against families that support their children by providing them with the highest standards of medical care. The court rejected the attorney general’s arguments that our lawsuit should be dismissed and affirmed that DFPS is not required to follow the governor’s directive or the attorney general’s non-binding opinion.

“Though the court limited its order to the Doe family and Dr. Mooney, it reaffirmed that Texas law has not changed and no mandatory reporter or DFPS employee is required to take any action based on the governor’s directive and attorney general opinion. By upholding the injunction, the court credited the finding that investigations based solely on the provision of medically necessary gender-affirming care cause irreparable harm. It would be unconscionable for DFPS to continue these lawless investigations while this lawsuit continues, and we will not stop fighting the protect the safety and lives of transgender youth here in Texas.”

Read the Texas Supreme Court's full opinion here

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