LGBTQ Legal Issues

6th Circuit upholds bans on transition treatment for transgender minors

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A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld bans on transition treatments for transgender minors such as puberty blockers, hormones and surgery.

In a 2-1 decision, the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Kentucky and Tennessee to enforce their bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, Reuters reports.

Both laws have exceptions. Tennessee allows continued treatments that began before the effective date of the law. Kentucky allows continued treatment with drugs or hormones to allow for systematic reductions in their use. And both states allow treatment for sexual development disorders and certain injuries.

The plaintiffs challenging the laws are not likely to establish violations of the due process or equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in his majority opinion for the court.

Sutton said courts should be cautious about interpreting the Constitution to cover “debates of this sort—over the use of innovative, and potentially irreversible, medical treatments for children.”

Nineteen states, in addition to Tennessee and Kentucky, have laws similar to the treatment bans adopted in Kentucky and Tennessee. At least 14 others provide protections for those seeking treatments for gender dysphoria.

“Life-tenured federal judges should be wary of removing a vexing and novel topic of medical debate from the ebbs and flows of democracy by construing a largely unamendable Constitution to occupy the field,” said Sutton, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

A second federal appeals court, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has also addressed the issue, allowing Alabama’s ban to take effect during a challenge to the law.

The Tennessee plaintiffs in the 6th Circuit case were represented by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, according to a press release. In a statement, they called the 6th Circuit decision “a devastating result.”

“Denying transgender youth equality before the law and needlessly withholding the necessary medical care their families and their doctors know is right for them has caused and will continue to cause serious harm,” the statement said. “We are assessing our next steps and will take further action in defense of our clients and the constitutional rights of transgender people in Tennessee and across the country.”

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