Judges block Kentucky, Tennessee bans on gender-affirming care for youth

Two federal judges, one in Tennessee and the other in Kentucky, on Wednesday blocked their states' controversial bans on gender-affirming care for minors from taking effect. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Two federal judges, one in Tennessee and the other in Kentucky, on Wednesday blocked their states' controversial bans on gender-affirming care for minors from taking effect. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

June 29 (UPI) -- Last-minute rulings by federal judges mean transgender youth in Tennessee and Kentucky will continue to be able to access medicinal forms of gender-affirming care ahead of the enactment this week of controversial laws banning minors from this form of treatment in the two southern states.

The 11th-hour rulings Wednesday blocked portions of the two states' controversial bans on minors receiving hormones and puberty blockers that are part of gender-affirming care therapies for gender-related issues.


The rulings come amid a Republican effort to restrict access to gender-affirming care, especially for minors, that has been met with litigation, resulting in several decisions that have seen judges side with the medical community that supports youth receiving this form of medical treatment.

In Tennessee, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson granted a preliminary injunction on the portion of Senate Bill 1 that restricts medicinal forms of gender-affirming care ahead of the law going into effect Saturday, but allowed the ban on gender-affirming surgery to stand as none of the plaintiffs were seeking it.


In Kentucky, U. S. District Judge David Hale issued a similar preliminary injunction and allowed the ban on surgeries to also stand as such procedures are not at issue in the case as they are not being performed in the state. Hale's ruling came hours before the ban was to go into effect on Thursday.

The decisions were celebrated by the states' separate chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, which were involved in both cases, while Kentucky's Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, disparaged the ruling blocking his state's ban as "misguided" saying it "tramples the right" of the General Assembly to make public policy.

"My office will continue to do everything in our power to defend this law passed by our elected representatives," he said in a statement.

Kentucky Senate Bill 150 moved through the Republican-controlled General Assembly earlier this year, but was vetoed Gov. Andy Beshear who said it strips families of freedom to make their own decisions about their children and that it represents "too much government interference in personal healthcare issues."

However, that veto was overruled in late March, but was challenged in court by seven transgender minors and their parents accusing S.B. 150 of violating the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.


In his ruling Wednesday, Hale said the plaintiffs had shown "a strong likelihood of success" on their challenge, stating that the treatments banned by S.B. 150 "are medically appropriate and necessary for some transgender children under the evidence-based standard of care accepted by all major medical organization in the United States."

He also refuted oft-repeated claims that the treatment is experimental, saying that "the drugs have a long history of safe use in minors" and that "it is undisputed that puberty-blockers and hormones are not given to prepubertal children with gender dysphoria."

Tennessee's Senate Bill 1 was signed by Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, in early March, after it had been moved to his desk by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. And was met with litigation by a 15-year-old transgender daughter and her parents as well as two other anonymous families.

In his ruling Wednesday, Richardson said that the plaintiffs have demonstrated that S.B. 1 is most likely unconstitutional while noting that several other courts that have dealt with similar cases have ruled likewise.

"To the Court's knowledge, every court to consider preliminarily enjoining a ban on gender-affirming care for minors has found that such a ban is likely unconstitutional. And at least one federal court has found such a ban to be unconstitutional at final judgment," he said.


"Though the court would not hesitate to be an outlier if it found such an outcome to be required, the Court finds it noteworthy that its resolution of the present Motion brings it into the ranks of courts that have (unanimously) come to the same conclusion when considering very similar laws.

"If Tennessee wishes to regulate access to certain medical procedures, it must do so in a manner that does not infringe on the rights conferred by the United States Constitution."

According to the nonprofit think tank Movement Advancement Project, at least 19 states have banned medicinal and surgical forms of gender-affirming care for youth, including five states that enforce bans with criminal penalties.

In Tennessee, there are an estimated 3,100 teens who identify as transgender, representing 0.74% of the population, while there are an estimated 2,000 transgender teens in Kentucky, who make up less than 0.70% of the state's population, according to figures from UCLA's Williams Institute.

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