Texas court blocks ‘child abuse’ investigations into two affirming families of trans youth

Meanwhile, a new poll finds that a majority of Texans support the rights of trans youth to gender-affirming care

A Texas judge has blocked child welfare agents from investigating two families of trans youth in the latest strike against a February order targeting affirming parents.

On July 1, Travis County judge Amy Clark Meachum granted a temporary injunction on behalf of families who are helping their trans kids access gender-affirming medical care. Meachum’s order bars the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from expanding the definition of “child abuse” to include the provision of treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and puberty blockers in order to investigate families of trans youth. 

In her ruling, Meachum said the investigations are “gross invasions of privacy” and that the DFPS policy only serves to infringe upon the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children in consultation with healthcare providers. She added that they are in violation of state law.

“The DFPS Rule was given the effect of a new law or new agency rule, despite no new legislation, regulation or even valid agency policy,” Meachum wrote.

Meachum’s order, which is effective immediately, bars DFPS from taking further action against the two pseudonymous families at the centre of the lawsuit: Wanda Roe and her son, Tommy, and Mirabel Voe and her son, Antonio. The court will hear whether to allow a permanent injunction against the investigations in December. 

“The Court recognized yet again that being subjected to an unlawful and unwarranted investigation causes irreparable harm for these families.

The suit was filed in June by the LGBTQ2S+ advocacy groups PFLAG, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Texas. An 80-page complaint alleges that Gov. Greg Abbott “trampled on the constitutional and statutory rights of transgender children and their parents” by issuing a February directive calling on the state’s child welfare agencies to open investigations into parents who allow their kids to medically or socially transition.

The court is considering providing additional relief to other members of PFLAG, a national support group for families and friends of LGBTQ2S+ people that claims over 600 members in Texas. Other families who are seeking an injunction include Adam and Amber Briggle, a couple who live in the Dallas suburbs with their son, Max. 

In a joint statement, the legal team representing the platintiffs celebrated Friday’s ruling, saying that it is grateful that Meachum “reiterated that the DFPS rule is unlawful and changed the status quo for Texas transgender youth and their families.”

“The Court recognized yet again that being subjected to an unlawful and unwarranted investigation causes irreparable harm for these families who are doing nothing more than caring for and affirming their children and seeking the best course of care for them in consultation with their medical providers,” advocates said. “We are confident that the Court will continue to recognize those harms as it considers the injunction we have requested for PFLAG families.”

 

This ruling is just another in a series of lawsuits seeking to end investigations into families of trans youth. A DFPS worker, who is the mother of a trans child, filed a lawsuit in March seeking to stop her own employer from investigating her household, and Meachum responded by issuing a statewide order blocking all investigations based solely on providing trans kids gender-affirming care. In June, a separate judge blocked investigations into three Texas families who allowed their kids to socially or medically transition. 

More lawsuits are likely to come. The Texas Supreme Court lifted a statewide injunction against the Abbott directive in May but ruled that parents could still individually sue to prevent their families from being investigated.

As Texas parents continue to fight on behalf of their childrens’ right to be themselves, a new survey finds that voters in the state largely support access to gender-affirming care among trans minors. In a June poll conducted by Morning Consult and The Trevor Project, 45 percent of Texas respondents felt that youth under the age of 18 should be able to receive HRT and puberty blockers if the treatment is supported by their parents and recommended by their doctors. Just 31 percent of voters believe minors should be unable to access this type of care in all cases. 

Dika Ofoma

Dika Ofoma is a Nigerian-based writer whose works have been published in magazines like Dazed, Them., Mail and Guardian.

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