Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice Kristen Clarke (left) sent a letter Thursday to all state attorneys general reminding them of the federal constitutional and statutory provisions protecting transgender youth against discrimination. File Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo
March 31 (UPI) -- Preventing transgender or non-binary youth from receiving gender-affirming care may encroach on federal constitutional protections, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The DOJ sent a letter to all state attorneys general to remind them of the federal constitutional and statutory provisions protecting transgender youth against discrimination, including when those youth seek gender-affirming care, the department said in a release.
The department issued the letter to coincide with the International Transgender Day of Visibility, in recognition of the contributions and accomplishments of transgender and gender non-conforming people.
"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all children are able to live free from discrimination, abuse and harassment," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said.
"Today's letter reaffirms state and local officials' obligation to ensure that their laws and policies do not undermine or harm the health and safety of children, regardless of a child's gender identity."
The letter advises states that laws and policies that prevent individuals from receiving gender-affirming medical care may infringe on federal constitutional protections under the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
This comes after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday signed a bill into law that prohibits transgender boys and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender at public schools and colleges in the state.
Other states have passed similar legislation.
On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial measure into law, restricting what can be taught in classrooms on gender identity or sexual orientation, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics.
"All persons should be free to access the services, programs, and activities supported by federal financial assistance without fear that they might face unlawful discrimination for doing so," reads the Justice Department's letter, signed by Clarke.
It continued: "Courts have held that many nondiscrimination statutes contain an implied cause of action for retaliation based on the general prohibition against intentional discrimination, and agencies have made this clear in regulations.
"Thus, any retaliatory conduct may give rise to an independent legal claim under the protections described above."