redwood forest background
Mendocino County Public Broadcasting
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR News

The ACLU sues to block Texas from investigating parents of trans youth

The ACLU of Texas argues that Gov. Greg Abbott's instructions to investigate parents of transgender adolescents were issued without proper authority, in violation of a Texas law and the state constitution and violate the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents.
Eric Gay
/
AP
The ACLU of Texas argues that Gov. Greg Abbott's instructions to investigate parents of transgender adolescents were issued without proper authority, in violation of a Texas law and the state constitution and violate the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal have filed a lawsuit seeking to block a statewide directive that transgender rights advocates describe as an attempt to persecute trans children and their families.

The suit, filed on Tuesday, is aimed at stopping the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from enacting Gov. Greg Abbott's orders to investigate parents and doctors who provide trans children with gender-affirming care.

Abbott has also suggested parents should be prosecuted. His order follows Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's nonbinding opinion last month that providing access to sex reassignment surgery, puberty blockers, testosterone and estrogen treatments all constitute child abuse.

"No family should have to fear being torn apart because they are supporting their trans child," Adri Pérez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.

The ACLU argues that the governor's instructions were issued without proper authority, in violation of a Texas law and the state constitution, and violate the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents. The complaint names Abbott, DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and the DFPS as defendants.

Medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have condemned state government efforts to restrict access to gender-affirming care for minors, saying it dangerously interferes with necessary medical care.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a DFPS employee called Jane Doe, who "works on the review of reports of abuse and neglect"; the woman's husband, John Doe; and their 16-year-old transgender daughter, Mary Doe.

Lawyers say Jane Doe has been placed on leave from her job because her daughter is undergoing a transition and that the family has already had an investigator show up at their door and interview the parents and Mary. The investigator also sought access to Mary's medical records, the plaintiffs say.

Abbott's order, Paxton's opinion and the investigation have "terrorized the Doe family and inflicted ongoing and irreparable harm," their lawyers say.

The ACLU is also representing Houston-based psychologist Megan Mooney, who works with youth who have gender dysphoria. According to the complaint, Abbott's directive has put Mooney in an "untenable position."

Under Texas law, she is a mandatory reporter, which means she could lose her license and face civil and criminal penalties if she ignores Abbott's directive. However, by following them, the ACLU of Texas says she "would be violating her professional standards of ethics and inflict serious harm and trauma on her clients."

Some district attorneys in Texas have already said they will not investigate or prosecute cases of gender-affirming care for trans children.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is among those defying the order. "I will not prosecute any parent, any facility, or anyone else for providing medically appropriate care to transgender children," Ogg said, as reported by Texas Public Radio.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 1, 2022 at 9:00 PM PST
A previous version of this story incorrectly described the status of the family at the center of the lawsuit. It is the mother, Jane Doe, who has been placed on leave from her job and not the daughter, Mary Doe.