Law

Texas appeals court reinstates temporary ban of investigations into gender-affirming care

In an order late Monday, the Third Court of Appeals reinstated a statewide injunction into the practice that was previously granted by a state district judge earlier this month.

In this Thursday, May 20, 2021 file photo, demonstrators gather on the steps to the State Capitol to speak against transgender-related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and Texas House in Austin, Texas.

A Texas appeals court has reinstated a temporary ban against state officials investigating families who provide gender-affirming care to transgender children as child abuse.

In an order late Monday, the Third Court of Appeals reinstated a statewide injunction into the practice that was previously granted by state District Judge Amy Clark Meachum earlier this month.

A lawsuit was filed after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding opinion last month that stated certain "sex-change" procedures and the prescribing of puberty-blockers to certain children is "child abuse" under state law.

That was followed by a directive from Gov. Greg 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 ruled March 11 that Abbott's order went beyond the scope of his authority. But Paxton's office immediately appealed the ruling and said the investigations could continue pending the appeal. Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Lambda Legal — who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a state employee with a transgender child, her husband, and the teenager — subsequently requested an emergency order to halt the practice

"It is unconstitutional and wrong to target parents for providing the best possible healthcare for their kids," the ACLU of Texas tweeted late Monday.

Paxton said earlier this month that he is prepared to take the case all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court.

"I have no doubt that the governor has the authority to do what he’s doing,” Paxton told The Mark Davis Show, a conservative radio program, as The Texas Newsroom previously reported. That came after the appeals court upheld an earlier ruling from Meachum that blocked a further investigation into the family.

In a response to the request for an emergency order, Paxton's office argued, in part, that a statewide injunction was invalid because it extended beyond the original plaintiffs in the case.

"But courts' authority to issue injunctive relief is limited to the parties before it; the trial court—and this Court— cannot issue an injunction for the benefit of non-parties,” the office said, according to the filing.

In its order Monday the appeals court said, while not addressing the merits of the appeal, the order was necessary to preserve the status quo.

"Having reviewed the record, we conclude that reinstating the temporary injunction is necessary to maintain the status quo and preserve the rights of all parties," the judges wrote.

Joseph Leahy of The Texas Newsroom contributed to this story.

Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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