Justice Department challenges Tennessee to block ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth

Justice Department challenges Tennessee to block ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth

The US Department of Justice has is joining legal challenges against the state of Tennessee to block a recently enacted law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

A complaint filed in US District Court on 26 April argues that the law, which is set to go into effect on 1 July, violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

“No person should be denied access to necessary medical care just because of their transgender status,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s civil rights division said in a statement.

The law is being challenged from the ACLU and Lambda Legal, which filed a lawsuit against the state last week.

“It was incredibly painful watching my child struggle before we were able to get her the life-saving healthcare she needed,” plaintiff Samantha Williams said in a statement. “I am so afraid of what this law will mean for her. We don’t want to leave Tennessee, but this legislation would force us to either routinely leave our state to get our daughter the medical care she desperately needs or to uproot our entire lives and leave Tennessee altogether. No family should have to make this kind of choice.”

The law prohibits medical providers from following widely accepted clinical guidelines for providing medically necessary and potentially life-saving treatment for minors for the purpose of affirming a gender other than the one assigned at birth.

Republican Governor Bill Lee signed the ban into law last month along with a separate measure targeting public drag performances, which was blocked by a federal judge pending a challenge from a LGBT+ theatre group.

“Rather than tackle any real issue at stake for Tennesseans, the legislature and Governor Lee decided to attack vulnerable youth who are at the mercy of politicians who think they know better than families, doctors, and the greater medical community,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement following the Justice Department challenge.

“Gender-affirming care is life-saving care. Period,” she added. “We appreciate that the Biden Administration is saying ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to attempts by Governor Lee and other Tennessee lawmakers to legislate transgender children out of existence.”

At east 12 states have enacted laws or policies banning gender-affirming care for young trans people, and more than a dozen others are considering similar measures.

More than half of all trans youth in the US between the ages of 13 and 17 are at risk of losing access to age-appropriate and medically necessary gender-affirming healthcare in their home state, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The onslaught of legislation and volatile political debate surrounding the bills has also negatively impacted the mental health of an overwhelming majority of young trans and nonbinary people, according to recent polling from The Trevor Project and Morning Consult.

A separate survey from The Trevor Project found that 45 per cent of trans and nonbinary youth have seriously considered attempting suicide over the last year.

The results of a wide-ranging survey from The Washington Post and KFF found that a vast majority of trans Americans are satisfied with their lives after transitioning.