Parents of transgender youth are suing to block Georgia's gender-affirming care ban

ATLANTA (AP) — Parents of four transgender children have filed a lawsuit challenging a Georgia law set to take effect Saturday that bans most gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapies for transgender people under 18, their lawyers said.

The lawsuit, which the lawyers said was filed Thursday night, asks a judge to immediately prevent enforcement of the law while the legal challenge plays out.

The law passed along party lines this year by the Republican-majority General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp was hotly contested, with Democrats, parents and medical providers making impassioned arguments against it. Georgia is one of at least 20 states that have enacted laws that restrict or ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, with most currently facing lawsuits.

The Georgia law, Senate Bill 140, does allow doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking medications, and it allows minors who are already receiving hormone therapy to continue.

Supporters argue the law will prevent children from making decisions they could later regret.

But opponents say it will have devastating effects on young people, who are making decisions under parental and medical supervision. They argue the law further marginalizes people who are already prone to taking their own lives at disturbingly high rates.

The federal lawsuit was filed by the parents of four transgender girls and by TransParent, an organization that supports parents and caregivers of transgender children. The suit was filed on their behalf by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

They argue the law “violates the fundamental rights of parents to make medical decisions to ensure the health and well-being of their children” and “violates the guarantees of equal protection by denying transgender youth essential, and often lifesaving, medical treatment based on their sex and on their transgender status.”

The lawyers said it names state health officials as defendants.

The Associated Press sent an email requesting comment on the lawsuit to the state attorney general’s office, which defends state laws against legal challenges.

Puberty blockers are only intended to be used for a few years. Delaying puberty for longer carries risks, including keeping their bodies from developing bone density which generally happens during puberty, the suit says.

If the law goes into effect, young people already on puberty blockers will not be able to proceed to hormone therapy. That means they will have to choose between the negative consequences of prolonged use of that medication or stopping the medication and going through puberty to develop secondary sex characteristics that do not match their gender identity, the lawsuit says.

For those not already on puberty-blocking medication, the law discourages doctors from prescribing it at all because allowing a young person to take such medication until they turn 18 “is not a viable option under the appropriate standards of care,” the lawsuit says.

“Prohibiting access to necessary medical care is just cruel,” Southern Poverty Law Center Attorney Beth Littrell said in a statement. “Laws like this are predicated on prejudice, misinformation, and manufactured fears, and they are as indefensible as they are unconstitutional.”

The families who sued have asked the court to let them proceed under pseudonyms because of concerns about their privacy and safety.

Some families said the law would force them to make the disruptive choice to uproot their families to move to a state that allows their children to receive the health care they believe is necessary for them to live happily and thrive.

“Gender-affirming health care is best-practice, evidence-based medical treatment that is necessary for the health and happiness of many transgender youth,” said ACLU of Georgia legal director Cory Isaacson.

The lawsuit is the latest to target bans on gender-affirming care, after a wave of legislation passed in conservative states.

A federal judge struck down Arkansas’ ban as unconstitutional, and federal judges have temporarily blocked bans in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Oklahoma has agreed to not enforce its ban while opponents seek a temporary court order blocking it. A federal judge has blocked Florida from enforcing its ban on three children who have challenged the law.

The states that have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia.

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