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Judge Halts Family Investigations in Texas Under Abbott’s Anti-Trans Directive

District Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued an injunction Friday against investigations of transgender children’s parents.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott exits stage after speaking at the Houston Region Business Coalition's monthly meeting on October 27, 2021, in Houston, Texas.

The largest nurses’ union in the U.S. joined civil rights groups late Friday in celebrating a judge’s decision to temporarily bar the state of Texas from investigating the parents of transgender children, an effort launched last month by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

In her ruling, District Judge Amy Clark Meachum argued that Abbott’s directive ordering the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who pursue gender-affirming care for their trans children is “beyond the scope of his duty and unconstitutional.”

Meachum said a statewide injunction against Abbott’s order — which was issued with the support of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — will remain in effect until “this court, and potentially the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Texas” hear the case. The ACLU and Lambda Legal sued earlier this month to block the directive.

Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, the president of National Nurses United (NNU), said in a statement Friday night that Abbott’s policy is “an insidious scheme to rob trans youth, their families, and their care providers of the agency to do what is best for this exceptionally vulnerable group of patients.”

Under the blocked directive, nurses, doctors, teachers, and others who knew a child was receiving gender-affirming care but didn’t report it to Texas authorities could have faced criminal penalties.

“While it would be easy to view these attacks simply as political gamesmanship, and they are that, they are also a very real and grave threat to the health, existence, and futures of transgender people,” said Triunfo-Cortez. “Criminalizing parents for supporting their children — whether they are trans or cis, gay or straight — is a heinous breach of any sense of ethics. This is especially true when we’re talking about potentially lifesaving medical care, which gender-affirming care is, according to research.”

“Nurses know our first responsibility is to our patients, to care for them, and to advocate on their behalf based on available evidence,” Triunfo-Cortez added. “It’s clear these politicians’ responsibilities lie elsewhere. So we welcome today’s decision.”

Despite another defeat in court, Paxton — who last month authored a non-binding legal opinion characterizing some gender-affirming care as “child abuse” — said he filed an appeal against Meachum’s injunction late Friday.

While Paxton called investigations into the families of trans kids “legal and necessary,” officials in at least two of Texas’ largest counties have said they will refuse to comply with the directive, arguing that Abbott and Paxton “are ignoring medical professionals and intentionally misrepresenting the law to the detriment of transgender children and their families.”

As the Texas Tribune reported, dozens of people testified at a hearing on Abbott’s directive held by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ahead of the state judge’s ruling on Friday.

“Many read written testimony from trans children and their families who were terrified to attend themselves,” according to the newspaper.

One mother who said her kid attempted suicide at age 12 after coming out as transgender warned during testimony that “children will die because of Governor Abbott’s order.”

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement late Friday that Meachum’s ruling “brings some needed relief to trans youth in Texas, but we cannot stop fighting.”

“Witnesses — including a parent targeted by these attacks, experts on medical care, and a supervisor within Texas Child Protective Services — gave courageous and emotional testimony about the fear and harm caused by these unlawful actions,” Klosterboer added. “All trans young people deserve to live freely as their true selves.”