Several families in Georgia sued the state on Thursday over its ban on certain gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth, launching a last-minute effort to block the prohibitions just hours before it’s set to take effect.
The law signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March bars licensed medical professionals in Georgia from providing patients under the age of 18 with hormone therapy or surgery related to gender transition. Violations of the legislation could lead to the revocation of a health practitioner’s license. The ban takes effect on July 1.
Gender-affirming care spans a range of evidence-based treatments and approaches that benefit transgender and nonbinary people. The types of care vary by the age and goals of the recipient, and are considered the standard of care by many mainstream medical associations.
Enacting restrictions on gender-affirming care for trans youth has emerged as a key issue for conservatives, with at least 20 states having limited components of the care in recent years. Advocates who have brought legal challenges against some of the restrictions have had some limited success, including last week, when a federal judge in Arkansas dealt the strongest blow yet to one of the measures when he struck down that state’s ban.
The Georgia lawsuit was brought in federal court by four transgender youth in the state and their families, as well as an advocacy group whose work includes “connecting families of transgender children to local practitioners who provide gender-affirming medical care,” according to the complaint. The plaintiffs are being represented by lawyers from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
The law allows minors who started hormone replacement therapy before July 1 to continue the treatment. None of the minors behind the lawsuit have started the therapy, according to the lawsuit, though all of them are planning to begin the treatment at some point in the future. Two of the minors are currently taking puberty-blocking medication, the suit states.
“The Health Care Ban does nothing to protect the health or well-being of minors. To the contrary, the Ban undermines the health and well-being of transgender minors by denying them essential medical care,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in their 47-page complaint.
The lawsuit argues that Georgia’s law violates the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. The plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to order state officials not to enforce the prohibitions as their lawsuit unfolds, as well as declare it unconstitutional.
“If the Ban is not enjoined, Plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm. Parent Plaintiffs and TransParent Plaintiff’s members will be deprived of their fundamental right to obtain safe and needed medical care for their children. And Minor Plaintiffs will be denied the care they need for a serious medical condition, resulting in a cascade of medical, emotional, and psychological harms,” the lawyers wrote in their motion for emergency relief from the court.
“Our health care providers and families care about nothing more than doing what’s best for their patients and children,” said Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver, HRC’s senior director of litigation, in a statement. “We are suing to challenge the unconstitutional attacks on transgender youth and their families.”
One of the parent plaintiffs in the case told CNN that they’re fighting the law in part so that their family can remain in the state and, when the time comes, get their transgender daughter the hormone therapy she wants.
“It’s just so frustrating because I do not want to leave Georgia. But I know that no matter what we’ll do what we have to do to get her the care that she needs,” the mother, who is identified in the suit under pseudonym Emma Koe, told CNN.
“Parents of transgender children, like we know the long-lasting effects of the lack of support, a lack of love, the lack of gender-affirming care, you know, and especially for Amy we want to just make sure that she’s happy and that she’s thriving and that she gets to be who she wants to be,” Koe said, adding that she’s encouraged by recent legal victories against similar laws in other states.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Kentucky temporarily blocked part of that state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth from taking effect. Hours later, a federal judge in Tennessee temporarily halted enforcement of part of that state’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors in the state.