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Trans Youth, Parents, Ask SCOTUS to Find TN Gender-Affirming Care Ban Illegal

“I want the Justices to know transgender people are not going away,” a 15-year-old petitioner in the case said.

LGBTQ+ advocates rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on October 8, 2019.

A group of transgender youth, their parents and a licensed pediatric physician from Tennessee have filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal an appellate court’s decision that kept the state’s ban on gender-affirming care in place.

The law bars doctors from providing common therapies to transgender youth in the state, including puberty blockers, hormonal disorder treatment, and more. Medical experts and multiple medical associations have repeatedly said that gender-affirming care can be life-saving.

A group of litigants successfully sued the state of Tennessee in a federal district court, which found that the law violated the fundamental rights of parents and their children to seek treatment for gender dysphoria. But a panel of judges on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that decision in favor of the state’s ban in a split 2-1 finding that was issued in late September.

The writ of certiorari filed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday was made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of three transgender adolescents, their parents, and a pediatric physician, all of whom live in Tennessee and have been affected by the law. Some of the petitioners have stated that the law has affected them financially as well as emotionally and physically, as they have continued to seek care outside of the state at their own personal expense.

The brief notes that gender-affirming care “is not new,” and is “provided in accordance with evidence-based clinical guidelines that, like all clinical guidelines, are reviewed and updated as science and medicine evolve.”

“Every major medical organization in the United States agrees that gender-affirming treatments — which, for adolescents, include puberty delaying medication and hormone treatment — are safe, effective, and can be medically necessary,” the brief states, adding:

A substantial body of evidence, including cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, as well as decades of clinical experience, has shown that these medical interventions greatly improve the mental health of adolescents with gender dysphoria.

Within the petition, the petitioners argue that the ban places higher scrutiny on trans kids to receive health care than it does for cisgender youth in the state, thus violating the 14th Amendment. They also allege that the ban violates parents’ fundamental right to make medical decisions for their own children.

A ruling from the Supreme Court would affect the 20-plus states that have passed similar bans within their jurisdictions over the past few years. If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, those laws would become null, allowing transgender kids across the U.S. to access the medical care they require. However, if the Court rules in favor of the states, thousands of trans youth would be detrimentally affected, unable to attain treatment that is not only safe but also life-saving.

It’s also possible that the Court will decide not to hear the case at all, allowing the ban in Tennessee to remain until justices decide to hear a similar petition in the future. Four Supreme Court justices must agree to hear the writ of certiorari before it can be heard by the full bench.

One of the petitioners in the case, a 15-year-old trans teenager who is only identified as L.W., said that they are part of the appeal because they know “how important this care is for tens of thousands of transgender youth” like them.

“It scares me to think about losing the medication that I need,” L.W. said, “and if this law continues, my family may have to leave Tennessee ― the place I have lived and loved my entire life.”

“I want the Justices to know transgender people are not going away and that we deserve the same rights as everyone else,” L.W. added.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, also commented on the importance of a positive outcome from the Supreme Court.

“These laws not only destabilize the lives of transgender youth but also disrupt their families and communities, and threaten established legal protections with far-reaching implications,” Strangio said. “The justices have an opportunity to follow long-standing precedent and block Tennessee’s dangerous law.”

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