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How a U.S. Supreme Court Case on Gender-Affirming Care Bans Could Affect Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments over a Tennessee law that bans gender-affirming care for minors, marking its first foray into the issue of trans health care.

Tennessee’s law prohibits doctors from prescribing treatments like hormone therapies and puberty blockers to help minors transition from the sex they were assigned at birth to their identified gender. The Biden administration and trans teens in Tennessee challenged the law, alleging it violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Texas passed a similar law in the last legislative session, banning puberty blockers and hormone therapy for minors. Despite an ongoing legal challenge, the law went into effect on September 1.

The Texas Supreme Court is expected to rule this year, well before the Tennessee case is resolved next summer. However, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling will set a national precedent and impact Texas and other states with similar laws.

Where the Texas Case Stands

In 2023, Texas legislators passed several anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including Senate Bill 14, which bans transition-related health care for anyone under 18. The law threatens to revoke the licenses of doctors who prescribe such treatments. Teens already receiving care were required to be weaned off it.

Several families and doctors sued to block the law, arguing it violates parental rights and interferes with medical practice. Texas courts are handling the challenge, partly because Texas offers robust protections for parental rights.

In August 2023, a state judge ruled that SB 14 violated parents’ rights, but the Texas Attorney General’s office appealed, allowing the law to take effect on September 1. The conservative Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in January and will rule on the case soon.

How Other Courts Have Ruled

Federal judges have issued varied rulings on similar laws. In Tennessee, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the state’s law violated the 14th Amendment, allowing treatments for other teens but not for trans teens. However, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the law to take effect.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet tackled broader trans rights issues but has now agreed to review the Tennessee law, signaling a readiness to address these legal challenges. This case could have significant implications for existing and future laws restricting trans health care access.

Potential Implications

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Tennessee law will likely influence similar laws across the country, including Texas. The decision could determine the extent to which states can regulate gender-affirming care for minors and affect future legal battles over trans health care rights.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, emphasized the high stakes, stating, “The future of countless transgender youth in this and future generations rests on this Court adhering to the facts, the Constitution, and its own modern precedent.”

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