There’s been a new development in what’s been a fast-developing story around Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his new order involving transgender children. If you haven’t already heard, Abbott issued a letter that, in the words of the Texas Tribune, “ordered state child welfare officials to launch child abuse investigations into reports of transgender kids receiving gender-affirming care.”
In another article, the publication clarified that gender-affirming care — recommended by a number of state and national health-care organizations for transgender children, is “judgment-free, individualized care oriented toward understanding and appreciating a person’s gender. Providers often work with counselors and family members to ensure they have everything they need to navigate the healthcare system.”
This past Wednesday, Texas District Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary restraining order blocking Child Protective Services from investigating a couple for child abuse after providing gender-affirming care to their teenage daughter. Furthermore, as USA Today reported, the order “also set a March 11 hearing on whether to grant a wider-ranging injunction barring the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from following Abbott’s Feb. 23 directive to treat gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse.”
It also turns out, in a curious twist, that the mother in the case is herself a DFPS employee. According to USA Today’s account of the couple’s lawsuit, she was “placed on leave last week after she asked supervisors how the department would interpret the governor’s directive to investigate families like hers.”
The article went on to note that Abbott’s order is “based on a non-legally binding opinion written by Attorney General Ken Paxton arguing gender-affirming treatments could be considered ‘child abuse.’”
Meacham, in issuing her ruling, noted that, “The Court finds Jane Doe has been placed on administrative leave at work and is at risk of losing her job and that Jane, John and Mary Doe face the imminent and ongoing deprivation of their constitutional rights, the potential loss of necessary medical care, and the stigma attached to being the subject of an unfounded child abuse investigation.”
Certainly, what’s happening is causing great concern among parents in Texas. As yet another Texas Tribune article noted, “Lawyers who specialize in LGBTQ family law say the number of families reaching out in fear of potential child abuse investigations is unlike anything they’ve ever seen.”
So what should you take from this if you have a vested interest in a transgender child? Gov. Abbott’s directive and Meachem’s injunction, taken together, are moving us toward perhaps a better understanding and better articulation of how to truly help transgender children, as well as what does and doesn’t legally constitute child abuse. Given that this is an election year, and Paxton is moving into the primary runoff phase of his re-election bid, this case is certain to be in the news and perhaps in some campaign messaging.
This is an area of family law that is meaningful to us, as we’re deeply passionate about the welfare of children in divorce, child custody, and CPS cases. Meacham’s ruling helps define how the legal battles will play out, though we believe there will be other cases and judges’ rulings that might actually allow Abbott’s order to be enforced and pursued. We are here for all parents, no matter what the case, and we bring a blend of fierceness and compassion to all the cases we take on. If you’d like to know more about how we would represent you in a case, schedule a consultation with Lisa A. Vance or one of her colleagues, and you’ll get a better, fuller picture of your legal options.