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Travis County judge blocks Texas directive on gender-affirming care for transgender children

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott instructed the DFPS to investigate parents who help their transgender children receive gender-affirming care.

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — On Friday, a Travis County judge blocked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's directive concerning gender-affirming care for transgender children.

The directive, issued by Abbott last month, instructed the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to open child abuse investigations into parents who help their transgender children receive gender-affirming care.

Because of the directive, multiple families across the state – including in Austin – were already being investigated by the DFPS. But there have also been a lot of legal challenges to the directive. With the ruling by Judge Amy Clark Meachum Friday evening, DFPS cannot investigate child abuse claims based solely on facilitating or providing gender-affirming care to minors. 

Shortly after news of the judge's temporary injunction, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted that he would appeal the ruling. 

"Democrat judge tries to halt legal and necessary investigations into those trying to abuse our kids through 'trans' surgeries and prescription drugs. I’m appealing. I’ll win this fight to protect our Texas children," Paxton tweeted.

He followed up around three hours later, saying he had appealed the ruling.

"My appeal is now on file," he said. "Thankfully, Democrat judge’s order permitting child abuse is frozen. Much-needed investigations proceed as they should. This fight will continue up to the Supreme Court. I’m ready for it."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal sued on behalf a State employee who has a transgender child. They were happy about the ruling.

“We feel relieved and vindicated that the judge understood the magnitude and breadth of the harm that would have resulted if Texas’ child welfare agency — at the direction of the governor — were allowed to continue enforcing this lawless directive,” said Paul Castillo, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal.  

On Saturday, the groups condemned Paxton's statement and disputed his claim that simply filing an appeal meant the judge's order was frozen. They issued the following statement:

"In his zealousness to persecute trans youth and their families, Attorney General Paxton has appealed the injunction we secured Friday and argues that the judge’s order restraining the governor and DFPS from investigating parents simply for providing gender-affirming care to their children and from taking action against healthcare providers who refuse to report on these families is frozen. We consider the appeal baseless. Just like the State’s appeal dismissed earlier this week, we do not believe that this new appeal has any merit or that it should affect whether the injunction can remain in place. The court’s decision makes clear how harmful and lawless the state’s actions are and we will fight to ensure the properly issued injunction remains in place."

KVUE's Pamela Comme attended Friday's 10 a.m. hearing. She tweeted live updates from the hearing.

In opening statements, the plaintiff said the defendant's actions were "chilling" and limited transgender youth.

Friday's hearing uncovered new facts in the case. The first witness to the stand for the plaintiff was an investigative supervisor for Child Protective Services, Randa Mulanax.

Mulanax said that before the directive, she was not aware of any cases dealing with children in transgender care. Since the directive, Mulanax said there were three in her region and seven cases in the state. They are verifying the total number of cases and believe it is more.

Mulanax went on to describe her experience working for DFPS. She said investigators were asked to prioritize cases involving transgender children. They were also not allowed to close those cases. 

"Jane Doe" later took the witness stand. She has a 16-year-old transgender child. She is the state employee and plaintiff in the lawsuit against the state. Doe alleged she was put on leave and investigated by Child Protective Services after asking questions about the governor's directive.

"I want to protect my child," said the plaintiff. "I don’t have words for how unbelievably awful this situation is. I don’t have my job. I don’t have this sense of security and privacy."

When on the stand, Doe went on to describe her daughter's reaction when she first heard about the directive.

"She found out about the letter on her own at school," said Doe. "She read a news article. She was very upset. She had a lot of questions and was scared. She thought she’ll have to go to her grandparents. She never had severe anxiety like a lot of trans kids. She is definitely anxious and moody, and I don’t blame her.

Last week, Judge Meachum granted a temporary restraining order, blocking the State from investigating the family. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tried to appeal that decision but lost on Wednesday.

Now the ACLU and Lambda Legal want a judge to make that temporary restraining order against the State permanent and extend it to all parents of transgender children in Texas. They have a pending trial on the issue set for July 11. 

Austin-based attorney Ian Pittman represents two families currently under investigation.

"Any parent of a trans child in Texas has feared a day like this would come. Any parent of any child probably has a fear that something they may do may be misconstrued in a way that would involve the State," Pittman said.

Despite the pushback, Abbott remains firm on his decision. He believes the directive is protecting young Texans and says puberty blockers and medical procedures to change a child's sex are child abuse.

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