Tennessee is sued over ban on healthcare for transgender youth


FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest rally after Georgia’s House and Senate voted to prohibit most medical treatments to minors that help affirm gender identity, outside the Capitol Building in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. March 20, 2023.


By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – Advocacy groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking to strike down a new Tennessee law that bans doctors from providing gender-affirming medical treatment such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery to transgender minors.

The American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ group Lambda Legal in a lawsuit filed in Nashville, Tennessee federal court say the law, which takes effect July 1, unlawfully discriminates against transgender people based on their sex.

The law would ban any medical procedure performed for the purpose of enabling a minor to identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.

Republican state lawmakers who passed the bill in February said it was necessary to protect young people from being permanently harmed. But many medical associations have said the law is transphobic and that gender-affirming care can be life-saving.

The new lawsuit says depriving transgender youth of medically necessary care will have devastating consequences for them and their families. Untreated gender dysphoria can trigger anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, the groups said.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three families with transgender children and a Memphis-based doctor who performs gender-affirming procedures.

The office of Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, a Republican, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the ban into law last month along with a separate measure restricting drag performances in public. A federal judge blocked the drag law earlier this month pending the outcome of a lawsuit by an LGBTQ theater group.

The laws are part of escalating efforts by Republican lawmakers to regulate the conduct of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill intended to ban transgender women and girls from competing in women’s and girls’ school sports. The proposal is seen as having little chance of passing the Democrat-led Senate.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal claim in Thursday’s lawsuit that Tennessee’s law violates the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by singling out transgender people. They also say the law violates the federal Affordable Care Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in the provision of healthcare.

Several other U.S. states have banned gender-affirming care for minors, and over the last several weeks groups have sued over laws adopted in Utah, Florida, Indiana and Arkansas.


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