ACLU Sues Texas Over Investigation of Parents With Transgender Child

The lawsuit takes aim at moves by Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to criminalize gender-affirming care.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.Eric Gay/AP

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The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of a Texas family that says it is being investigated by the state because their transgender daughter is receiving gender-affirming medical care. The suit also alleges that the child’s mother was illegally placed on leave from her job at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services because of that agency’s investigation into her family.

The family’s allegations are the first indication that the DFPS has initiated investigations into the families of transgender children at the urging of Texas’ top GOP officials. After legislation that would have classified gender-affirming care as child abuse failed to pass the state legislature, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—who is under indictment and facing a primary challenge—issued a non-binding legal opinion asserting that such treatments could be investigated as abuse under existing law. Then Gov. Greg Abbott compounded the cruelty, ordering child welfare officials at the DFPS to launch abuse investigations into the parents of transgender children receiving medically accepted treatments such as puberty blockers and hormones. As a result of Abbott’s letter, the lawsuit alleges, an unnamed DFPS employee with a 16-year-old transgender daughter was placed on leave and was visited by an investigator from her own agency, who sought her child’s medical records. 

Lambda Legal and the ACLU argue that Abbott’s order violates the Texas constitution and the rights of transgender children. “The Governor’s…actions threaten to endanger the health and wellbeing of transgender youth in Texas by depriving them of medically necessary care, while communicating that transgender people and their families are not welcome in Texas,” reads the court filing. 

It’s unclear whether Abbott’s directive will hold up in court. Paxton’s legal opinion doesn’t have the force of law, and several law enforcement officials have said they will refuse to prosecute families for child abuse under the new definition. Regardless, the lawsuit establishes for the first time that investigations of the parents of transgender kids have begun.

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