Texas judge grants ACLU request for temporary restraining order in investigation into abuse of trans child and parents

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas and LGBTQ civil rights organization Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of the parents of a transgender girl. The child’s mother, an employee of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), had been suspended from her job due to last week’s legal opinion from the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, claiming that gender-affirming treatments and procedures for transgender children can constitute a form of child abuse.

Paxton’s legal opinion prompted Governor Greg Abbott to ask DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters “to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of all reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas.”

Judge Amy Clark Meachum wrote in an order that the family named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit “will suffer irreparable harm” unless the defendants – Abbott and DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters – are prevented from investigating the families of transgender children.

Without the temporary restraining order, Meachum wrote, the plaintiffs – identified as Jane, John and Mary Doe – would face “imminent and continuing deprivation of their constitutional rights, potential loss of necessary medical care and stigma related to being the subject of an unsubstantiated child abuse investigation.”

Additionally, Meachum wrote that if Jane Doe, a DFPS employee, were placed on a child abuse registry as a result of the investigation, she “may lose the ability to practice her profession and Jane and John Doe may lose their ability to work with minors and volunteer in their community.

Abbott and Paxton were listed as candidates in the Republican primary which took place on Tuesday. Abbott won the gubernatorial primary and Paxton will advance to a runoff.

Lawsuit filed on behalf of a DFPS employee

According to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, the plaintiffs are identified as clinical psychologist Dr. Megan Mooney and “supportive” parents, “Jane and John Doe,” individually and as “Mary’s next friends.” Doe,” a 16-year-old transgender girl who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria is a psychological distress that occurs when a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not match.

Jane Doe, a DFPS employee, asked her employer to clarify how the governor’s order would affect agency policy, according to the lawsuit. She was then placed on leave “because she has a transgender daughter with a medical need for treatment for gender dysphoria,” according to the lawsuit. DFPS Child Protective Services attended the plaintiffs’ home after being told they were under investigation, according to the lawsuit.

Jane Doe is on leave pending the results of the DFPS investigation, according to court documents. If the investigation found that the parents had committed abuse, they would be placed on the child abuse registry “and would be unduly subject to all the effects that flow from such placement,” according to the lawsuit. Jane Doe could also be fired and therefore lose the family’s medical coverage, according to the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs accuse Abbott and Masters of attempting ‘to legislate by press release’ after the Texas Legislature ‘failed to pass legislation criminalizing well-established and medically necessary treatment for adolescents with gender dysphoria “.

CNN has reached out to the governor’s office, Masters and Paxton for comment.

President Joe Biden blasted Abbott’s order to the DFPS, calling the move “a cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents.”

“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced several actions to keep transgender children in Texas and their families safe – warning the State of Texas that their discriminatory actions are putting children’s lives at risk” , Biden wrote in a statement. “These announcements make it clear that instead of weaponizing child protective services against loving families, child protective agencies should instead expand access to gender-affirming care for transgender children.”

In a series of tweets On Wednesday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra called the Texas order “discriminatory and unconscionable,” warning that “these actions are clearly dangerous to the health of transgender youth in Texas.”

Lawyers argue over language of Paxton’s legal opinion

Meachum, of the 201st Civil District Court, heard arguments Wednesday morning from an attorney for Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, seeking the temporary restraining order in his lawsuit with the ACLU claiming that the DFPS had already begun investigating the families of transgender teens.

Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo argued that his clients risked immediate and irreparable harm as a result of the investigations. He said he was aware of at least two other families, in addition to the family mentioned in the lawsuit, who are under investigation.

Texas begins investigating parents of transgender teens for child abuse, lawsuit says.  A parent works in the department involved in the investigations

Ryan Kercher, an attorney in Paxton’s office, argued that the state is not seeking to investigate “every trans youth or every… young person who undergoes this type of treatment and procedure.” Kercher argued that the language of the opinion is intentionally “framed” to say that this type of health care “could” or “may be” a form of child abuse, especially if there is “an absence of consent”.

The judge said she would issue her ruling later Wednesday after thoroughly reviewing the arguments and documentation.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the terms of the temporary restraining order. The order only applies to plaintiffs in the ACLU’s lawsuit.

CNN’s Gregory Lemos, Andy Rose and Raja Razek contributed to this report.


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