AUSTIN, Texas — Finding that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott violated the rights of transgender adolescents and their parents, a state judge issued an order Friday blocking gender-affirming medical care from being treated as “child abuse.”
State District Judge Amy Clark Meachum said Abbott exceeded his authority when he issued a Feb. 22 directive requiring the state child-welfare agency to investigate such medical treatment as abuse.
Meachum issued a temporary injunction that blocked Abbott’s directive statewide and ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services to cease any investigation based solely on the provision of gender-affirming care.
The agency has nine such investigations underway, a spokeswoman said Friday.
“We are thrilled. And what a relief for Texas families,” said Camilla Taylor, litigation director for Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ legal advocacy group.
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Taylor said Meachum’s quick ruling underscored “how very harmful and terrifying this directive is … for families and young people in particular who are in fear of being removed from their parents.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed notice of appeal within an hour of the ruling.
“Democrat judge tries to halt legal and necessary investigations into those trying to abuse our kids through ‘trans’ surgeries and prescription drugs,” Paxton said on Twitter. “I’m appealing. I’ll win this fight to protect our Texas children.”
The injunction was sought by parents, identified only as Jane and John Doe in court documents, who are being investigated for child abuse for providing gender-affirming care to their 16-year-old.
A lawyer for Texas defended the governor’s action and objected to Friday’s hearing, arguing that it should not have been held because Meachum had yet to rule on pending motions, including the state’s contention that the judge lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.
Assistant Attorney General Courtney Corbello also argued that the Doe family did not have standing to sue to halt Abbott’s directive because their complaint is based on potential, rather than actual, harm.
“All Jane Doe has been subject to is one investigation, one meeting with an investigator and nothing further. She is not in the central registry of child abuse; she hasn’t had her child taken from her; her child is not off of any medications or lacking any sort of medical treatment,” Corbello told the judge.
It is too early in the process, Corbello said, to issue a statewide injunction against Abbott’s directive.
“There will be nothing heard by the court today proving that there is a statewide dilemma, a statewide violation of law occurring that affects families other than plaintiffs and their child,” she said.
The first witness called by lawyers for the Doe family was Randa Mulanax, an investigatory supervisor for Child Protective Services who resigned this week in response to the gender care investigations.
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“It’s a very stressful job overall … (but) I have always felt that at the end of the day the department has the children’s best interest at heart, and the family’s best interest at heart – but I no longer feel that way with this order,” Mulanax said.
“It feels unethical. It feels like we are stepping into dangerous territory. interfering with parents and medical providers on care for their children,” she added.
As the court hearing was taking place, advocates for transgender Texans and their families turned a regularly scheduled meeting of the Texas Family and Protective Services Council into a standing-room-only opportunity to voice objections to the policy of mandatory investigations into reports of minors receiving gender-affirming care.
Some said they were speaking on behalf of families who feared being investigated for child abuse if they showed up to speak.
In Friday’s hearing in Meachum’s court, the mother identified as Jane Doe also testified, but the court’s livestream on YouTube was interrupted to preserve her anonymity.
Also called to testify was Megan Mooney, a Houston psychologist who joined the lawsuit against Abbott’s directive because it required her, as a state-licensed professional, to report gender-affirming medical care as child abuse.
Mooney said she believes reporting her transgender patients would harm her clients and violate her ethical obligations.
Families with transgender children were in a state of “outright panic” after Abbott’s directive, she added.
“Parents are terrified CPS will come and question their children or take them away. Mental health professionals fear violating law, and it puts medical professionals in the horrible position of not being able provide care to children,” Mooney testified.