Supreme Court to review Tennessee law banning sex-change care for minors


The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review a Tennessee law that bans gender reassignment care for people under the age of 18. The case marks the court’s first opportunity to consider the constitutionality of such restrictions, which have been passed in more than 20 states since 2021.

The Biden administration has asked the court to rule on whether states, in consultation with parents and doctors, can block transgender children from receiving treatments such as puberty-suppressing drugs, which major medical associations say reduce the rates of depression and suicide faced by transgender people.

More than 100,000 transgender young people live in one of the 24 states that ban gender-affirming medical care., It’s an issue that has come to the forefront of the country’s cultural and political divide in recent years.

The Supreme Court expanded employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers in 2020, but has yet to rule on the constitutionality of lower court decisions regarding transgender minors, bathroom access and athletes.

Attorney General Elizabeth B. Preloger, representing the Biden administration, told the justices that the uncertainty caused by conflicting lower court decisions on gender-affirming health care “has a significant impact on families across the country who are faced with crucial decisions about whether to abandon their homes, jobs, schools and communities in hopes of preserving access to the health care their children need, without knowing whether bans in their own states or neighboring states will be upheld or blocked.”

Lawyers defending Tennessee’s ban told the court that the U.S. Constitution does not give parents the right to demand “medical intervention for a child that the state has determined to be unproven and excessively dangerous.”

“Tennessee, like many other states, has acted to prevent minors from receiving these treatments until their lifelong effects are fully understood or until science has advanced enough that Tennessee has a different view of their effectiveness,” Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Scurmetti’s (R) office said in a statement.

Major U.S. medical organizations agree that gender-affirming care is safe, effective and may be medically necessary.

The Supreme Court’s decision to wade into the issue comes shortly after Republican state legislators across the country introduced a record number of bills targeting gay and transgender Americans, including bills that would restrict which restrooms transgender people can use and whether the Pride flag can be flown on public buildings.

Transgender young people, their families and health care providers last fall asked the court to overturn a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a Tennessee law that bars transgender minors in the state from accessing puberty-suppressing drugs and hormones.

Civil rights groups on Monday urged the Supreme Court to overturn the law, arguing it violates their constitutional right to equal protection. “It is important for transgender young people and their families to know that this is not an issue of politics, but rather a fundamental freedom to access critical, life-saving health care,” Lucas Cameron Vaughn, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said in a statement.

Scurmetti said the law aims to “protect children from irreversible gender-based treatment” and vowed to continue to defend it.

“This case will provide much-needed clarity about whether the Constitution contains special protections for gender identity,” Scurmetti said in a statement about X.

The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case during its next session, which begins in October, as justices rush to finish their work for the current session., Ten notable rulings are expected to be handed down this week or next. Depends on the case Whether and when Donald Trump will be indicted for his actions surrounding the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, access to emergency abortion care, the future of free speech on social media platforms, and more.

Legal experts have long thought the Supreme Court must ultimately decide whether state bans on gender-affirming care are constitutional, but the court has great flexibility in deciding when and how to hear cases.

The Tennessee case, along with another from Kentucky, had been on and off the list of cases to be considered in closed sessions at the Supreme Court for months before Monday’s announcement, a delay that suggested the justices were debating behind closed doors about how the court should handle the cases.

In a separate case in April, the Supreme Court allowed Idaho to broadly enforce its ban on gender-affirming medical treatment for minors while a case before the 9th Circuit continues. The court’s brief order said Idaho’s ban cannot immediately be applied to two transgender teenagers who sued the state, and did not address the overall constitutionality of the medical ban. The court’s three liberal justices dissented from the timing of the court’s intervention. The 9th Circuit is scheduled to hear the case in August.

Historically, the Supreme Court has heard cases where the issues are so important that lower courts have issued contradictory decisions.

Last June, a federal district court blocked bans in both Tennessee and Kentucky just months after the laws went into effect. The court issued an injunction, ruling that the state’s ban did not violate the Equal Protection or Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

And last year, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that Alabama’s ban could go into effect, and in February, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Illinois temporarily allowed Indiana’s ban to stay in effect while the case continues.

In urging the Supreme Court to take up the issue, the Biden administration said the Tennessee law discriminates based on transgender status, only banning treatment for transgender people who suffer from gender dysphoria while allowing the exact same treatment when prescribed for other purposes.

Preloger said in court filings that the state could not justify banning treatment that was “consistent with medical consensus and that the affected youth, their parents and physicians have concluded is appropriate and essential to their health.”

The Supreme Court has handed transgender rights activists several victories in recent years. In 2020, Bostock v. Clayton CountyThe court ruled 6-3 that federal employment law protections apply to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, and it also refused to review several cases in which lower courts had upheld transgender rights in schools, prisons and disability protections.

Last year, the court also rejected a West Virginia request to enforce a state law banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in public schools while a legal challenge continues.

Tobi Raji contributed to this report.



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