In state after state, conservative lawmakers this year have banned medical procedures for transgender youth. Now, a growing number of federal judges are blocking those laws from taking effect.
U.S. district court judges have halted such laws in six states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee – finding that they infringe on the constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
Two lawsuits challenging laws in Montana and Georgia have yet to be ruled on, and in Oklahoma the opposing sides in May agreed to set aside the law until the court case is heard.
The court rulings offer temporary relief from the recent rush of bills banning transgender youth from receiving treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy. Twenty states have passed such measures, with the bulk of them signed into law this year.
It’s quite noteworthy that the results in these cases have so far been so consistent,” said Tobias Wolff, a University of Pennsylvania law professor specializing in constitutional law and LGBTQ rights. “And it’s not because the law in this area was such a slam dunk. It’s because the facts are so clearly against these laws.”
Many conservative lawmakers have endorsed the laws as part of an effort to defend traditional values and portray Democrats as out of touch on issues of sex and religion.
Democrats, LGBTQ advocacy groups and health providers say the bans unjustly target a vulnerable community for whom gender-affirming care can be life-saving.
“The courts are starting to find very consistently that these laws are ridiculous,” said Kevin Jennings, chief executive of Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focused on LGBTQ issues. “They violate the equal protection clause, they’re motivated by animus not science and they serve no state interest.”