AUSTIN (CN) — A Texas state court halted a new Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) policy of investigating the parents of transgender children for child abuse for providing gender-affirming care, such as hormone therapy, to their kids.
The Friday evening order is the latest event in a weeklong civil lawsuit filed by the parents of a trans child and a Houston-area psychologist, who challenged Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Feb. 25 directive to the agency ordering it to consider encouraging medically recommended treatment of gender dysphoria as “child abuse.”
“Gender-affirming care was not investigated as child abuse by DFPS until after Feb. 22, 2022. The series of directives and decisions by the governor, the executive director and other decision-makers at DFPS changed the status quo for transgender children and their families, as well as professionals who offer treatment, throughout the state of Texas,” announced District Judge AMy Meachum at the conclusion of a hearing on the requested statewide injunction. “The governor’s directive was given the effect of a new law or a new agency rule despite no new legislation, regulation or even stated agency policy. [Texas Governor Greg] Abbott and [DFPS] Commissioner [Jaime] Masters’ actions violate separation of powers by impermissibly approaching into the legislative domain.”
In her decision, Meachum highlighted the consequences that the controversial policy has had on the family who brought the suit.
“It clearly appears to the court that unless defendants are immediately enjoined from enforcing the governor’s directive … plaintiffs will suffer imminent and irreparable injury. For example, Jane Doe has already been placed on administrative leave at work, and is at risk of losing her job, her livelihood and her means of caring for her family,” Meachum said.
A trial is scheduled for July 11, 2022.
Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and an LGBTQ advocacy network, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, represented the family and doctor.
Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo provided opening remarks on the plaintiffs’ behalf.
“Today’s hearing is about the need to enjoin the governor, commissioner and agency’s unauthorized attempt to expand the definition of ‘child abuse’ to target transgender youth and the parents who support them in seeking medically necessary, recognized care for their gender dysphoria,” Castillo said to Judge Meachum. “This vast overreach by the defendants establishes a new presumption of abuse by parents with trans young people seeking gender-affirming care, triggering investigations of families based solely on the provision of that care and prioritizing those investigations in an unprecedented way.”
State attorney Courtney Corbello defended the government in her opening statement.
“First, an automatic stay is still in place at the time of this time of litigation,” Corbello claimed, arguing that because the Austin-based Texas Third Court of Appeals has not issued a mandate, Judge Meachum could not make a ruling.
Corbello had argued that sovereign immunity protects the state from the lawsuit, saying the policy falls under the agency’s scope. Allegations of physical and mental and emotional abuse ought to be investigated, she said.
“It can’t be that all it takes for the judicial branch to infringe on the executive branch’s ability to perform such a critical task — of ensuring the welfare of the state’s children — is simply to claim that you’re being investigated by the [Department of Family and Protective Services] … and you don’t want to be.”
She also claimed the family had no standing to bring their claims.
“Plaintiffs are merely fearful at this point of any potential harm that may come to them because … of the investigation,” and have not yet suffered harm. She claimed that the mother, an employee of the very agency she is suing and filed the lawsuit under the pseudonym Jane Doe, has only been subjected to one meeting with an investigator, and has not had her child taken away from her or seen her daughter’s medications seized by the state.