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Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

The Supreme Court will review Tennessee’s law banning gender reassignment services for minors

By meerna Jun25,2024
The Supreme Court will review Tennessee’s law banning gender reassignment services for minors

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review a Tennessee law that prohibits gender reassignment care for people under 18. The case will be the first opportunity for justices to consider the constitutionality of such restrictions, which have been adopted in more than 20 states as of 2021.

The Biden administration has urged the court to decide whether states can prevent transgender children, in consultation with parents and doctors, from seeking treatments such as puberty blocking drugs, which major medical associations say cause lower rates of depression and suicide among transgender people.

More than 100,000 transgender teens live in one of 24 states that have banned gender-affirming medical care, an issue that has come to the fore in recent years amid the country’s cultural and political divisions.

In 2020, the Supreme Court expanded employment protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but has not yet ruled on the constitutionality of lower court rulings involving transgender minors, bathroom access or athletes.

Attorney General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, representing the Biden administration, told the justices that the uncertainty resulting from conflicting lower court decisions on gender-affirming care “imposes serious consequences on families across the country who are forced to make important decisions about whether to abandon their homes, jobs, schools and communities in hopes of maintaining access to necessary medical care for their children, not knowing whether bans in their state and neighboring states will be maintained or ordered.”

Lawyers defending the Tennessee ban told the court that the U.S. Constitution does not give parents the right to request “medical interventions for children that the state has deemed unproven and unduly risky.”

“Tennessee, like many other states, has taken steps to ensure that minors will not be provided with this treatment until they fully understand the lifelong consequences or until the science has advanced to the point that Tennessee can have another view of their effectiveness,” according to the State Department. office of Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (right).

Major U.S. medical organizations agree that gender-affirming care is safe, effective and may be medically necessary.

The justices’ decision to step into the issue comes after Republican state lawmakers across the country introduced a record number of measures targeting gay and transgender Americans, including bills regulating which bathrooms transgender people can use and whether Pride flags can be flown in public buildings.

Last fall, transgender young people, their families and health care providers asked the court to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit that upheld a Tennessee law barring transgender minors in the state from accessing puberty-blocking drugs and hormones.

Civil rights activists said Monday that the law violates the constitutional right to equal protection and called on the justice system to repeal it. “It is important to realize that for transgender youth and their families, this is not about politics – it is about the basic freedom to access essential, life-saving health care,” said Lucas Cameron-Vaughn, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Tennessee. in a statement.

Skrmetti vowed to continue defending the law, which he says aims to “protect children from irreversible treatment based on gender.”

“This case will bring much-needed clarity on whether the Constitution includes special protection for gender identity,” Skrmetti said in a statement to X.

The court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case during its next term, which begins in October. Justices are racing to complete the work of their current term, and 10 high-profile rulings are still expected this week or next. These cases will decide whether and when Donald Trump might be prosecuted for his actions related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, access to emergency abortion care, the future of free speech on social media platforms and more.

Legal experts have long believed the Supreme Court would have to ultimately decide whether state bans on gender-affirming care violate the Constitution, but the court has wide flexibility in deciding when and how to hear cases.

The Tennessee case, like the Kentucky case, had been on the Supreme Court’s list of cases to be heard at its private conference for several months before Monday’s announcement. The delay suggested the justices were debating behind closed doors how the high court should resolve the issue.

In April, in a separate lawsuit, the Supreme Court allowed Idaho to broadly enforce its ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors while litigation continues before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The Supreme Court’s brief order, which said Idaho’s ban could not immediately apply to two transgender teenagers who sued the state, did not address the overall constitutionality of the custody ban. The Court’s three liberal judges opposed the timing of the court’s intervention. The case is scheduled to be heard by the 9th Circuit Court in August.

Historically, the Supreme Court has heard cases when the issue at hand was of high importance and lower courts issued conflicting rulings.

Last June, federal district courts blocked bans in both Tennessee and Kentucky, just months after the laws went into effect. The Sixth Circuit reversed these trends injunctions, holding that state bans do not violate the Equal Protection Clause or the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Also last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that the Alabama ban could go into effect. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Illinois temporarily allowed Indiana’s ban to go into effect pending the outcome of legal proceedings.

In calling on the Supreme Court to address the issue, the Biden administration said the Tennessee law discriminates based on a person’s transgender status by prohibiting care only for transgender people suffering from gender dysphoria, while allowing the exact same treatment if prescribed for any another purpose.

States cannot justify prohibiting care that is “consistent with medical consensus and that the affected adolescent, his parents and his physicians have determined to be appropriate and necessary for their well-being,” Prelogar said in a court filing.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has awarded several victories to transgender rights activists. In 2020 in Bostock v. Clayton County, the court ruled 6-3 that federal labor law protections apply to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. The Court also declined to hear a number of cases in which lower courts had upheld the rights of trans people in schools, prisons and disability services.

Last year, she also rejected West Virginia’s request to allow a law banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ public school sports teams until the legal issues are resolved.

Tobi Raji contributed to this report.

By meerna

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