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Judge Grants Relief to Two More Families Who Feared Greg Abbott’s Child Abuse Investigation Order Would Result in Punishment for Gender-Affirming Medical Care

Governor Greg Abbott points to a reporter during a press conference on May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images.)

Governor Greg Abbott points to a reporter during a press conference on May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images.)

A Texas judge has blocked enforcement efforts under a controversial directive to investigate parents of transgender children for child abuse as to two more families in the Lone Star state.

It’s the second ruling to enjoin Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from enforcing Abbott’s February order that the agency investigate parents of children undergoing gender-affirming care and treatment under the state’s child abuse laws.

Abbott has reportedly already appealed the ruling.

Plaintiffs PFLAG — an advocacy organization that supports LGBTQ+ people and their families — along with parents of three minor children sued Abbott last month over the order.

In her ruling on Friday, Travis County Judge Amy Clark Meachum said the rule itself was wrongfully enacted.

“The DFPS Rule was adopted without following the necessary procedures under the APA, is contrary to DFPS’s enabling statute, is beyond the authority provided to the Commissioner and DFPS, and is otherwise contrary to law, as alleged in Plaintiffs’ Petition,” Meachum wrote, later adding: “The DFPS Rule was given the effect of a new law or new agency rule, despite no new legislation, regulation, or even valid agency policy.”

Meachum wrote that unless the agency is “immediately enjoined” from enforcing the rule, two of the plaintiffs — Mirabel Voe, parent to Antonio Voe, a minor, and Wanda Roe, parent to Tommy Roe, also a minor — “will suffer probable, imminent, and irreparable injury in the interim.” (The plaintiffs all sued under pseudonyms.)

Meachum said that such injury, “which cannot be remedied by an award of damages or other adequate remedy at law,” potentially includes:

[B]eing subjected to an unlawful and unwarranted child abuse investigation; intrusion and interference with parental decision-making; the deprivation or disruption of medically necessary care for the parents’ adolescent children; the chilling of the exercise of the right of Texas parents to make medical decisions for their children relying upon the advice and recommendation of their health care providers acting consistent with prevailing medical guidelines; intrusion into the relationship between patients and their health care providers; gross invasions of privacy in the home and school, and the resulting trauma felt by parents, siblings, and other household members; outing an adolescent as transgender; adverse effects on grades and participation in school activities; fear and anxiety associated with the threat of having a child removed from the home; increased incidence of depression and risk of self-harm or suicide; having to uproot their lives and their families to seek medically necessary care in another state; being placed on the child abuse registry and the consequences that result therefrom; and criminal prosecution and the threat thereof.

Meachum said the injunction will remain in effect until trial, which she set for Dec. 5.

The injunction specifically bars DFPS from implementing Abbot’s order, along with an opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton that declared that gender-affirming treatment amounted to “child abuse” under Texas law, against Voe and Roe for possible child abuse or neglect “solely based on allegations that they have a minor child or are a minor child who is gender transitioning or alleged to be receiving or being prescribed medical treatment for gender dysphoria.”

The agency is also barred from taking “any actions, including investigatory or adverse actions, against Plaintiffs Voe and Roe and their minor children, with open investigations solely based on allegations that they have a child who is transgender, gender nonconforming, gender transitioning, or receiving or being prescribed medical treatment for gender dysphoria.”

Meachum did allow DFPS to “administratively close or issue a ‘ruled out’ disposition in any of these open investigations based on the information DFPS has to date,” if such an action required “no additional contact” with members of the Voe or Roe families.

Judge Meachum did not issue a ruling as to two of the plaintiffs, PFLAG and another set of parents, Adam Briggle and Amber Briggle, parents to M.B., a minor. Their request, Meachum wrote, “remain[s] under advisement by the Court and no ruling is issued in this Order.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs issued a statement on Friday praising the decision.

“We are gratified that the Court reiterated that the DFPS rule is unlawful and changed the status quo for Texas transgender youth and their families,” the statement said. “The Court recognized yet again that being subjected to an unlawful and unwarranted investigation causes irreparable harm for these families who are doing nothing more than caring for and affirming their children and seeking the best course of care for them in consultation with their medical providers.”

The statement said it was confident that Meachum “will continue to recognize those harms” as it relates to the third family in the complaint.

The lawyers also expressly committed to fighting Abbott’s appeal, which was reportedly filed Friday.

“An hour after the District Court’s ruling, Texas has already filed an appeal, seeking permission to continue their persecution of transgender youth and their families,” the lawyers’ statement said. “But every court to consider the actions of these Texas officials has recognized both their unlawfulness and the irreparable harms they cause to these families. We will not stop fighting until all Texas families are protected.”

Friday’s ruling is the second time Meachum has blocked enforcement of the law against Texas families: in March, parents to a transgender girl in Texas, along with her psychologist, sued Abbott over the newly-enacted policy, and Meachum granted the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction.

The state appealed, and the appellate court issued a statewide temporary injunction barring enforcement of the policy entirely.

The Texas Supreme Court lifted that statewide injunction in May, while keeping in place Meachum’s order blocking investigation into the two families.

Read the decision, via Lambda Legal, below.

[Image via Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images.]

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