Supporters of Georgia’s transgender and non-binary community stroll through the Midtown neighborhood during the Transgender Rights March of the Gay Pride Festival in Atlanta October 12, 2019.
Several Georgia families on Thursday sued the state for its ban on certain gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth, launching a last-minute attempt to block the bans just hours before they went into effect.
The law, signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March, bans licensed healthcare professionals in Georgia from treating patients under the age of 18 with hormone therapy or sex reassignment-related surgery. Violations of the law can lead to the revocation of a naturopath’s license to practice medicine. The ban comes into effect on July 1.
Gender-affirming care encompasses a range of evidence-based treatments and approaches that benefit transgender and non-binary people. The type of care varies depending on the recipient’s age and goals, and is considered the standard of care by many established medical associations.
The introduction of restrictions on gender-based care for trans youth has emerged as a key issue for conservatives, as at least 20 states have implemented limited components of care in recent years. Advocates who have taken legal action against some of the restrictions have had limited success, including last week when a federal judge in Arkansas dealt one of the measures its biggest blow yet, lifting that state’s ban.
The lawsuit in Georgia was filed in federal court by four of the state’s transgender youth and their families, and by an advocacy group whose mission includes “matching families of transgender children with local physicians who provide gender-affirming medical care.” it in the complaint . The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
The law allows minors who started hormone replacement therapy before July 1 to continue treatment. According to the lawsuit, none of the minors behind the lawsuit have started therapy, although all plan to start treatment at some point in the future. Two of the minors are currently taking anti-puberty drugs, the lawsuit says.
“The health ban does nothing to protect the health or well-being of minors. On the contrary, the ban undermines the health and well-being of transgender minors by denying them basic medical care,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in their 47-page complaint.
The lawsuit argues that Georgian law violates the due process and non-discrimination clauses of the US Constitution. Plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to order state officials not to enforce the bans during the course of their lawsuit and declare them unconstitutional.
“If the ban is not imposed, plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm. Parent plaintiffs and members of TransParent plaintiffs are being deprived of their fundamental right to receive safe and necessary medical care for their children. And plaintiffs who are minors are being denied the care they need when they have a serious illness, leading to a cascade of medical, emotional and psychological harm,” the attorneys wrote in their request for emergency relief from the court.
“Our healthcare providers and families are concerned only with doing what is best for their patients and children,” Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver, senior director of litigation at HRC, said in a statement. “We are suing the unconstitutional attacks on transgender youth and their families.”
One of the lead plaintiffs in the case told CNN they are fighting the law in part so her family can stay in the state and give their transgender daughter the hormone therapy she desires when the time comes.
“It’s just so frustrating because I don’t want to leave Georgia. But I know that no matter what we do, we must do what we can to give her the care she needs,” the mother, identified in the lawsuit under the alias Emma Koe, told CNN.
“Parents of transgender children know, as do we, the long-term effects of a lack of support, love, and gender-affirming care. And for Amy in particular, we just want to make sure that she’s happy, that she’s okay and that she can be who she wants to be,” Koe said, adding that recent court wins against similar laws in other states is encouraged.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Kentucky temporarily blocked the enactment of part of the country’s ban on gender-affirming transgender care. Hours later, a federal judge in Tennessee temporarily halted enforcement of part of the state’s ban on sex-based childcare in the state.