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Texas, PFLAG spar over injunction on trans youth investigations

A Texas state judge on Friday moved to shield a larger group of families from a directive by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that ordered state officials to investigate parents and guardians who sought gender-affirming health care for their transgender children, but an immediate appeal by the state allowed the child-abuse probes to continue.

The injunction issued by Judge Amy Clark Meachum of the Travis County District Court temporarily blocked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from “implementing or enforcing” an agency rule, which stemmed from Abbott’s directive, against members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an LGBTQ organization that sued the state over the policy. The injunction additionally shielded Adam and Amber Briggle, who also sued after DFPS launched an investigation into the family over their teenage transgender son.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) immediately appealed the injunction, which allowed DFPS to continue investigating the families. A lawyer for PFLAG, Shelly Skeen, said that after similar appeals — Meachum had in July blocked the state from investigating two other families — they had received injunctions from an appellate court. It appeared likely that the plaintiffs would do the same in this instance.

Texas governor directs state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for trans youths as ‘child abuse’

A representative for Paxton did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday. His office argued in court this May that a judge’s decision to temporarily halt the investigations “prevents a state agency from carrying out its statutory duty to investigate reported child abuse.”

Brian K. Bond, national executive director of PFLAG, said in a statement that “every LGBTQ+ person deserves respect, dignity and the right to access the care they need when they need it.” Adri Pérez, a strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said that “state leaders have no business interfering with life-saving care essential for transgender youth.”

DFPS classified several instances in which gender-affirming medical care is sought for a child as requiring an investigation. That followed a Feb. 22 letter by Abbott to Jaime Masters, the commissioner of DFPS, instructing the agency to investigate any instances of such “abusive procedures.” Abbott cited a nonbinding opinion by Paxton that gender-affirming care “can legally constitute child abuse.”

Meachum’s order sought to block DFPS from investigating families solely on “allegations that they have a minor child who is gender transitioning or alleged to be receiving or being prescribed medical treatment for gender dysphoria,” or on allegations that they have a child who is transgender or otherwise gender-nonconforming.

She wrote in her ruling that such investigations could cause “probable, imminent and irreparable injury” to the families, including “gross invasions of privacy in the home and school, and the resulting trauma felt” by the family, as well as an increased risk of depression and suicide.

Last month, a 13-year-old boy was pulled out of class and questioned by a DFPS investigator, who probed the teen’s medical history and his gender dysphoria diagnosis. It left him shaking and distressed, his mother said.

Young transgender people who receive puberty blockers, medication that gives them more time to decide on their future, display lower rates of depression and anxiety. A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that young people who wanted to receive the medication and had access to it had lower rates of considering suicide.

Dreading the knock at the door: Parents of trans kids in Texas are terrified for their families

Briggle, one of the plaintiffs, said her son at first thought he could wave DFPS investigators off the family’s case. Briggle told The Washington Post that he assured her, “I’ll call, I’ll tell them it’s not true, and it’ll be done.” She said that as a social worker, she was afraid that a child abuse charge would cause her to lose her job.

The Texas battle comes as the rights of young trans people are heavily contested across the country. In Montana, officials said Thursday that they would stop transgender people from changing the gender on their birth certificate, in defiance of a judge’s order. Virginia on Friday said it would require transgender students to use school facilities and programs according to the sex they were assigned at birth.

Texas under Abbott has increasingly become a bastion of extremely conservative social policies. The state has among the strictest abortion laws in the country, and Abbott this week said he was responsible for sending two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to the official residence of Vice President Harris.

María Luisa Paúl and Caitlin Gibson contributed to this report.

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