ACLU, Lambda Legal Back in Court to Halt Trans “Abuse” Investigations

AG Paxton argues investigations should continue while ruling protecting famlies of trans children is appealed

Trans Kids Cry for HELP! rally outside the Governor's Mansion on March 13, 2022, to protest Governor Abbott's anti-transgender directive (Photo by John Anderson)

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal are back in court over Gov. Greg Abbott's "abuse" directive, after the state threatened to ignore a ruling that temporarily protected families with transgender children from unneccessary investigations by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

On March 17, the two civil rights nonprofits asked the Texas 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an emergency order that would force the state to obey the lower court's ruling. Previously, Judge Amy Clark Meachum blocked Abbott's directive until at least July when the lawsuit is due to continue; meanwhile, Attor­ney General Ken Paxton claims the state can completely disregard Meachum's ruling while awaiting the results of an appeal. Shelly Skeen, a senior attorney from Lambda Legal representing the plaintiffs, told the Chronicle that the appeals court could rule on both their emergency restraining order and the state's appeal any day now, or call for more hearings. Ultimately, she expects the courts to side with well-established medical science when it comes to gender affirming care. "CPS should not be investigating families that are simply trying to provide medically necessary care ... and to give their trans kids the best possible life," said Skeen.

Tracy Harting, an Austin attorney defending two families facing investigations under the directive, noted neither of her clients had heard from DFPS since Judge Meachum's temporary injunction but that their cases remain open. Since Abbott's directive forces DFPS employees to treat every abuse claim with equal weight, she told us she fears that they could continuously face frivolous, damaging investigations if the lawsuit fails. "Nothing would prevent people from making the same abuse referrals, over and over again."

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