AUSTIN, Texas ( Associated Press) – The Texas Supreme Court on Friday allowed the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse while ruling in favor of a family, following an order from Republican Gov. The first contact was made by the welfare officers. Greg Abbott.
The court did not rule on the merits of the investigation—which was the first of its kind in the US—only that lower courts in Texas tried to block all cases from proceeding.
The mixed decision by Texas’s Supreme Civil Court, which is controlled entirely by nine elected Republican justices, comes at a time when GOP lawmakers across the US are ramping up efforts to ban transgender rights.
Lambda Legal, which helped bring the lawsuit against Texas on behalf of the parents of the 16-year-old girl, called the decision a victory because it halted the state investigation into their family. While the ruling does not prevent Texas from launching investigations into other families, the state would be unwise to do so now because those families could also seek an injunction, said Omar González-Padén, attorney and health care strategist at Lambada Legal.
“It would be both pointless and a complete waste of resources for them to do so,” González-Padén said.
Texas went further than any state in February when Abbott issued the first order of its kind that directed child welfare officials to investigate reports of gender-affirming care for children as abuse.
A judge in Austin halted that order after filing a lawsuit on behalf of a 16-year-old girl whose family said the state was already investigating their family. It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.
The first reports of parents being investigated following Abbott’s directive in the lawsuit and an earlier non-binding legal opinion by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton marked some gender-affirming treatments as “child abuse.” The Texas Department of Family and Protective Service said it had launched nine investigations following instructions and opinions.
Across the country, Republicans have leaned into the debate over transgender rights as LGBTQ shows become increasingly visible in American society and pop culture.
In March, the Arizona Legislature passed bills to prohibit gender confirmation surgery for minors and ban transgender athletes from playing on girls’ sports teams, and Republican Gov.
Two other GOP governors in Indiana and Utah opposed their party and vetoed legislation to ban transgender players from girls’ sports.
In Texas, the group that brought the lawsuit also represents a clinical psychologist who has said the governor’s directive forced them to choose between reporting clients to the state or losing their license and other penalties.
The governor’s directive and Paxton’s opinion go against the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions on transgender people filed at the statehouse nationwide.