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Parents Rights

ACLU sues Texas over 'child abuse' investigations of transgender children and their parents

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on Tuesday to block enforcement of Abbott's directive that state child welfare officials must investigate parents of transgender children taking hormone blockers or other gender-affirming medical care. Abbott cited state Attorney General Ken Paxton's (R) legal determination that such treatments could "legally constitute child abuse."

Tuesday's lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Houston psychologist and a DFPS employee with a transgender daughter. The DFPS employee, identified as Jane Doe, was put on leave after Abbott issued his directive last week, then visited by state child welfare investigators on Friday. If the DFPS determines that Jane and John Doe committed child abuse under Paxton's definition, they could be placed on a child abuse registry and Jane Doe could be fired from her state job, the lawsuit says. 

The 16-year-old daughter, Mary Doe, "has been traumatized by the prospect that she could be separated from her parents and could lose access to the medical treatment that has enabled her to thrive," and the entire family is now living in "constant fear," the lawsuit says.

"The Texas legislature considered two bills last year that would have banned gender-confirmation surgery, hormone therapy, and puberty suppression treatments for Texas' transgender children, but both died in the House," The Washington Post repots. After the bills failed, Abbott asked the DFPS to determine whether "genital mutilation of a child for the purposes of gender transitioning through reassignment surgery constitutes child abuse," and when the agency said it could, state Rep. Matt Krause (R) asked Paxton to decide if other medical treatments for gender dysmorphia could be child abuse.  

"Paxton's opinion includes body modification surgeries that are rarely, if ever, performed on children," The Texas Tribune reports. "He also mentions puberty blockers that are reversible and are widely accepted by health experts. Studies show the model of gender-affirming care has had a significant improvement on the mental well-being of transgender children." 

Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project (APP), took credit for Abbott and Paxton's maneuver on Steve Bannon's podcast, The New Republic reports. The ACLU calls Abbott's directive an "attempt to legislate by press release," and at least five district attorneys in some of Texas' largest cities have said they will not enforce it.