A Texas state district judge on Friday temporarily blocked a directive by Gov. Greg Abbott to have state authorities investigate gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth as child abuse.
The ruling by District Judge Amy Clark Meachum in Travis County came after Abbott's order led to the investigation of a state employee's family after their daughter received such care, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal to sue over the directive.
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued 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."
Meachum said the plaintiffs would likely succeed after a trial on the merits of the case and ordered that hearing to begin in July. Meachum said the directive exceeded Abbott's authority under the Texas Constitution and the type of care it targeted never triggered an investigation prior to the directive.
Judge says the order 'changed the status quo' for transgender children
"The court further finds that gender-affirming care was not investigated as child abuse by DFPS until after February 22, 2022," she said. The order, she added, "changed the status quo" for transgender children and their families.
"The governor's directive was given the effect of new law or a new agency rule despite no new legislation, regulation, or even stated agency policy," Meachum added.
The ruling came after a day-long hearing where the transgender teenager's mother, identified by the pseudonym Jane Doe, testified after being placed on leave.
Camilla Taylor, the litigation director with Lambda Legal, told Houston Public Media the ruling brings relief for Texas families "who have been terrorized by this directive."
"The person who testified today, who was the subject of an investigation based solely on the fact that she has a transgender daughter, testified that her daughter was afraid of being taken away from her parents and out of her home," Taylor said. "This was absolutely inexcusable, and we're very glad that the court took action to put a stop to it immediately.
The arguments in state court came at the same time DFPS, which is charged with the investigations, held public comments on its upcoming strategic plan. Several advocates for the LGBTQ+ community spoke out against the measure during the public meeting.
A separate family, the Briggles, who invited Paxton to dinner in 2016 in an effort to "put a human face" on the struggle for transgender rights and meet their transgender son, is also under investigation, mother Amber Briggle told the Texas Standard.