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.
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The mixed decision of Texas’s Supreme Civil Court, which is made up of nine elected Republican justices, comes at a time when GOP lawmakers across the US are ramping up efforts to ban transgender rights. In the trial, both sides declared the verdict a victory.
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. Although 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 Gonzalez-Pagan, attorney and health care strategist for Lambda Legal.
“It would be both pointless and a complete waste of resources for them to do so,” Gonzalez-Pagan 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.
Brian Klosterbauer, a staff attorney with the ACLU who led the case, said the court’s ruling was “largely good news”, citing relief for its clients as well as finding that Paxton’s opinion and Abbott’s instructions are non-binding and have no legal effect. , Klosterbauer said the court’s decision makes clear that the governor does not have the authority to change Texas law, and that although the state’s Family Services Agency can decide whether to investigate, it is up to the courts to decide whether the agency is in charge of this. Can take action against any family reported under the direction. ,
“His instruction is what I think caused the most damage because it caused a lot of fear and panic across the state,” Klosterboer said.
According to Klosterbouer, Paxton’s office filed an appeal within minutes of the decision.
In a social media post following the ruling, Paxton said he had “just won.” Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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 opposed 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.