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Mixed Texas Ruling Allows Transgender Youth Abuse Investigations

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court on Friday allowed the state to analyze parents of transgender youth for child abuse while also ruling in favor of 1 family that was among the many first contacted by child welfare officials following an order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The court didn’t rule on the merits of the investigations — which were the primary of its kind within the U.S. — only that lower courts in Texas overstepped by attempting to block all cases from going forward.

The mixed ruling by Texas’ highest civil court, which is entirely controlled by nine elected Republican justices, comes at a moment when GOP lawmakers across the U.S. are accelerating efforts to impose restrictions on transgender rights.

Lambada Legal, which helped bring the lawsuit against Texas on behalf of the parents of the 16-year-old girl, called the choice a win since it put the state’s investigation into their family on hold. Although the ruling doesn’t prevent Texas from launching investigations into other families, the state can be silly to achieve this now because those families could also seek an injunction, said Omar Gonzalez-Paden, counsel and health care strategist for Lambada Legal.

“It will be each futile and a whole waste of resources for them to achieve this,” Gonzalez-Paden said.

Texas went farther than any state in February when Abbott issued a first-of-its-kind order that instructed child welfare officials to analyze reports of gender-confirming care for teenagers as abuse.

A judge in Austin put that order on hold after a lawsuit brought on behalf of the the 16-year-old girl whose family said the state was already investigating their family. It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.

The mixed ruling by Texas’ highest civil court, which is entirely controlled by nine elected Republican justices, comes at a moment when GOP lawmakers across the U.S. are accelerating efforts to impose restrictions on transgender rights.

The lawsuit marked the primary report of fogeys being investigated following Abbott’s directive and an earlier nonbinding legal opinion by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton labeling certain gender-confirming treatments as “child abuse.” The Texas Department of Family and Protective Service has said it opened nine investigations following the directive and opinion.

Across the country, Republicans have leaned into the debates over transgender rights as LGBTQ Americans have grown increasingly visible in society and popular culture.

In March, the Arizona Legislature passed bills to ban gender confirmation surgery for minors and ban transgender athletes from playing on girls sports teams, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed them.

Two other GOP governors in Indiana and Utah bucked their party and vetoed laws to ban transgender players from girls sports.

In Texas, the groups bringing the lawsuit also represent a clinical psychologist who has said the governor’s directive forces her to make a choice from reporting clients to the state or losing her license and other penalties.

The governor’s directive and Paxton’s opinion go against the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions on transgender people filed in statehouses nationwide.

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