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Ken Paxton sues Biden administration after federal pushback to transgender 'child abuse' directive

The Texas attorney general said the administration's positions came from a misinterpretation of the law.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday after actions taken by the federal government to ensure access to gender-affirming care for Texas youth.

New guidance states that it may violate federal law for doctors, medical providers and other medical staff to report sex-change procedures and the administration of puberty blockers to minors as “child abuse.” But Paxton called that a “misinterpretation” of the law and said he believes state law says such procedures can, in fact, constitute “child abuse.”

“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.

His lawsuit also takes issue with guidance issued in June of last year by Charlotte Burrows of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about workplace discrimination. Burrows said requiring a transgender employee to dress in accordance with the employee’s sex assigned at birth would constitute sex discrimination. Burrows also said the use of pronouns inconsistent with an individual’s gender identity could be considered harassment.

In a release, Paxton called the administration’s position a “misinterpretation, misapplication and misstatement of statutory and case law,” and said the June guidance had “attacked employers.”

Last week, the Biden administration announced its dissatisfaction with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to conduct investigations into families who go through with gender-affirming care for their transgender children.

In a statement, President Joe Biden called the directive "government overreach at its worst." He added that the actions are "terrifying" and "must stop."

The HHS announced several actions aimed at keeping transgender children and their families safe in Texas.

“The Texas government’s attacks against transgender youth and those who love and care for them are discriminatory and unconscionable," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "These actions are clearly dangerous to the health of transgender youth in Texas. At HHS, we listen to medical experts and doctors, and they agree with us, that access to affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be life-saving. "

Those actions include:

  • HHS is releasing guidance to state child welfare agencies through an Information Memorandum that makes clear that states should use their child welfare systems to advance safety and support for LGBTQI+ youth, which importantly can include access to gender-affirming care;
  • HHS is also releasing guidance on patient privacy, clarifying that, despite the Texas government’s threat, health care providers are not required to disclose private patient information related to gender-affirming care;
  • HHS also issued guidance making clear that denials of health care based on gender identity are illegal, as is restricting doctors and health care providers from providing care because of a patient’s gender identity;
  • The Secretary also called on all of HHS to explore all options to protect kids, their parents, caretakers and families; and
  • HHS will also ensure that families and health care providers in Texas are aware of all the resources available to them if they face discrimination as a result of this discriminatory gubernatorial order.

See Biden’s full statement.

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