A federal judge in Georgia has blocked a state law that sought to ban gender-affirming treatments, specifically hormone therapy, for transgender youth.
Senate Bill 140 still allows doctors to prescribe transgender teens puberty blockers, but outlawed hormone treatments for transgender youth, even though cisgender children can undergo such treatments for other health reasons.
In her ruling published on Sunday, U.S. District Judge Sarah Geraghty took note of the fact that, prior to the state’s ban, several precautions had to be taken before health professionals could administer hormone treatments for trans kids, including a mental health practitioner demonstrating a “medical need.” Parental permission was also required, as well as proof of “psychological maturity” from the patient to ensure that they understood “the impacts of such treatment.”
Geraghty also found that the state set an unreasonably high bar for identifying benefits from hormone therapy for trans youth, while setting a low bar for identifying its supposed risks.
“The imminent risks of irreparable harm to Plaintiffs flowing from the ban — including risks of depression, anxiety, disordered eating, self-harm, and suicidal ideation — outweigh any harm the State will experience from the injunction,” Geraghty wrote in her opinion.
Geraghty also said that “SB 140’s hormone-therapy ban is substantially likely to violate the Equal Protection Clause” of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it classifies what kind of treatment is acceptable “on the basis of natal sex.”
A “broad ban on the treatment is not substantially likely to serve the state’s interest in protecting children,” she added.
The plaintiffs in the case included three transgender minors, their parents and an organization called TransParent, a community-based group that provides resources and services for families with trans children. The plaintiffs were represented by a number of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the law firm O’Melveny & Myers.
“This law unapologetically targets transgender minors and denies them essential health care,” said a joint statement from those groups. “The ruling restores parents’ rights to make medical decisions that are in their child’s best interest, including hormone therapy for their transgender children when needed for them to thrive and be healthy.”
The ruling will likely be challenged by the state, which could appeal the case to the 11th District Court of Appeals.
Twenty-two states have enacted bans on gender-affirming care, with bans primarily targeting transgender youth. It’s estimated that around 50 percent of trans and nonbinary minors across the U.S. live in a jurisdiction where severe restrictions to their health care are presently law or are being considered by state lawmakers. Most of the state laws that have passed are being challenged in courts, and injunctions are currently in place on several states’ bans.