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Rights Groups Sue Texas Governor to Block ‘Unconstitutional’ Order for Causing ‘Terror’ to Transgender Kids with ‘Child Abuse’ Definition


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Texas parents, their transgender daughter and her psychologist sued Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday, asking a judge to immediately block an “unconstitutional” order for a family services agency to investigate gender-affirming medical care as “child abuse.”

Citing their need for privacy to discuss “highly sensitive and personal” matters, the family members are unnamed in a 50-page petition filed in Travis County, Texas. They are represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, which denounced Abbott’s order as a “partisan political attack” that has sparked “terror” for transgender children and their families.

“No family should have to fear being torn apart because they are supporting their trans child,” said Adri Pérez, the policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas. “A week before an election, Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a partisan political attack that isn’t rooted in the needs of families, the evidence from doctors and the expertise from child welfare professionals.”

Paxton, the Lone Star State’s top prosecutor who spent the length of his tenure under indictment for securities fraud, releasing an opinion last week characterizing certain “sex change” procedures on children as child abuse. Transgender advocates view the phrase “sex change,” which suggests a transformation rather than affirmation of one’s gender, as offensive.

Pérez, who identifies with they and them pronouns, gave a personal view of how such a law would affect gender-nonconforming people: “Gender-affirming health care saved my life, and other trans Texans should be able to access medically necessary, lifesaving care.”

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and its commissioner Jaime Masters are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit, but Paxton is not.

Lambda Legal attorney Paul D. Castillo wrote in a legal brief that Abbott’s order also offends the Constitution and the separation of powers.

“The Defendants have, without Constitutional or statutory authority, acted to create a new definition of ‘child abuse’ that singles out a subset of loving parents for scrutiny, investigation, and potential family separation,” Castillo wrote. “Their actions caused terror and anxiety among transgender youth and their families across the Lone Star State and singled out transgender youth and their families for discrimination and harassment. What is more, the Governor’s, Attorney General’s, and Commissioner’s actions threaten to endanger the health and well-being of transgender youth in Texas by depriving them of medically necessary care, while communicating that transgender people and their families are not welcome in Texas.”

Castillo quoted writer Adam Serwer’s memorable phrase in a separate statement, arguing that Abbott’s order is defined by its cruelty.

“For Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, it seems the cruelty is the point,” Castillo wrote. “They are joining a politically motivated misinformation campaign with no consideration of medical science and seem determined to criminalize parents seeking to care and provide for their kids, and medical professionals abiding by accepted standards of care for transgender youth.”

The mother, identified only in the petition as “Jane Doe,” is an employee of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Houston-based clinical psychologist Megan Mooney wrote in a sworn declaration that the governor’s order puts her in an “untenable” position.

“If I fail to report my clients who receive this medical treatment, I face the prospect of civil and criminal penalties, the loss of my license, and other severe consequences,” she wrote. “But if I report any of my clients for receiving critical and medically necessary care, I would be violating professional standards of ethics, inflict serious harm and trauma on my clients, irreparably damage the bonds of trust that I have built with my clients, face the possible closure of my practice if clients know that I cannot maintain their trust, and confront harsh penalties for false reporting of child abuse.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment.

The ACLU says that the judge can rule on their request for a temporary restraining order as early as today.

Read the petition, below:

(Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."