Texas judge halts investigations of transgender families who belong to national advocacy group
The ruling follows an opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that deemed some “sex-change” procedures and puberty blockers child abuse under state law.
A state district judge on Friday granted a temporary halt into the investigations of families with transgender children who belong to one of the largest LGBTQ advocacy groups in the country.
The ruling by District Judge Amy Clark Meachum in Travis County is the latest in a months-long case that began after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued in February a non-binding opinion that some "sex-change" procedures and the prescribing of puberty-blockers to certain children is "child abuse" under Texas law.
Paxton's opinion was followed by a directive from Abbott to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services "to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas."
The ruling applies to all families who belong to PFLAG, which has 17 chapters in Texas and more than 400 across the country. In her decision Meachum said the families who sued “state a valid cause of action” and “have a probable right to the declaratory and permanent injunctive relief they seek.”
Abbott and Jaime Masters, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services are named as defendants in the case.
Lambda Legal, who is part of the legal team representing the families, said the ruling shows the court “grasped the magnitude” of harm the state’s Republican leadership could have continued to inflict on families with transgender members.
“Families across Texas, since Gov. Abbott issued his directive, have lived in fear of the knock on the door. Even after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Abbott could not compel DFPS to conduct investigations, many families remained under investigation,” Nicholas Guillory, the Tyrone Garner Memorial Law Fellow at Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “Parents who love their transgender children and work with healthcare providers to support and affirm their well-being should be celebrated, rather than investigated as criminals as the state sought to do here.”
Paxton’s office indicated to the plaintiffs’ families that it will appeal the decision, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Lambda Legal added that the ruling includes the Briggle family, who was included in the investigations launched after Abbott’s directive.
Meachum said in her order the Briggles and other families would “suffer” injury until the case is finally settled.
“It clearly appears to the Court that unless Commissioner Masters and DFPS are immediately enjoined from enforcing the DFPS Rule operationalizing Governor Abbott’s Directive and Attorney General Paxton’s Opinion, members of Plaintiff PFLAG … ‘Plaintiff Families’, will suffer probable, imminent, and irreparable injury in the interim,” she wrote.
Amber Briggle, the mother of her transgender son, celebrated the victory in a tweet Friday.
“Today's ruling and injunction is like a giant exhale for all of us,” she wrote.
According to Meachum's order, a trial on the merits of the case is scheduled for June 2023.
In addition to Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, and the law firm of Baker Botts LLP are also representing the plaintiffs.
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