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Topline

The status of Texas’ controversial policy calling for “child abuse” investigations into parents of transgender children remains murky even after a state judge blocked it last week, as the state’s attorney general claims the policy has been reinstated and civil rights groups asked an appeals court Thursday to clarify that it’s still on pause.

Key Facts

Texas District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary injunction on March 11 that blocks the policy while a legal challenge against it plays out, barring the state from investigating or prosecuting any parents of transgender children who have received gender-affirming care.

Hours after Meachum’s order, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state had already filed an appeal, which he claimed meant Meachum’s order was “frozen” and the state could continue its investigations.

Whether the investigations are still taking place is unclear: the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has only said in a statement that its “posture on these investigations is that we are continuing to follow the law.”

Attorneys representing families under investigation told the Washington Post they have not received any clarity on whether the probes into their clients are still ongoing after Meachum’s order.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, which brought the lawsuit challenging the policy, asked an appeals court Thursday to issue a new order that reinstates Meachum’s injunction and blocks the directive, in order to clarify that it is in fact still frozen as the litigation proceeds.

The challengers asked the appeals court to rule “expeditiously” on their request, and the court has asked Texas to respond to the motion by Monday afternoon.

Crucial Quote

“At stake in this case are … the health, wellbeing, and very lives of vulnerable transgender youth; the ability of parents to support, love, and affirm their children; and the integrity of countless families across Texas,” the plaintiffs wrote in their motion to the appeals court for another injunction, saying that without “immediate relief from this Court, that same imminent and irreparable harm that led the trial court to issue its injunction in the first instance will persist while this appeal is pending.”

What To Watch For

Legal experts told the Texas Tribune they believe there’s a good chance the appeals court will issue an injunction that blocks the policy while the legal challenge continues. “I think that [the ACLU and Lambda Legal] will have a very strong case to have it reinstated,” South Texas College of Law Houston professor Rocky Rhodes told the Tribune. Attorney Chad Dunn told the publication that in some similar Texas cases, “the Court of Appeals has either just glossed over this question [of whether the policy is in effect] or they just say … we’re empowered to issue injunctions, so we’re going to issue the same injunction and keep it in place until such time as we decide the appeal.” The practice of states appealing cases to immediately overturn injunctions isn’t unique to this case—in addition to Texas, officials in other states like Florida have filed similar appeals. Dunn told the Tribune the controversial practice has only really started in recent years, however, saying the concept of “get[ting] an injunction against the state and they can just effectively ignore it until there’s been an appeal completed” is an “extraordinary rule.”

Key Background

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive to DFPS on February 22 calling for “prompt and thorough investigation[s]” into parents of children who have received gender-affirming medical care, after Paxton wrote a legal opinion equating the treatment to “child abuse.” Before Meachum issued her injunction, multiple outlets report DFPS had opened at least nine investigations into parents of transgender children, who have reported receiving visits from officials with Child Protective Services and face possible consequences like losing their jobs and custody of their children and being put on a state child abuse registry. A DFPS employee who resigned over the directive testified during a hearing on March 11 that workers at the agency had been asked to prioritize the investigations and were directed not to document anything about them in writing, unlike other child abuse investigations at the agency. The policy has been widely condemned by medical groups including the National Association of Social Workers, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychological Association—with the Texas Pediatric Society writing in a statement it would “cause undue harm to children in Texas.”

Further Reading

Texas Judge Blocks Transgender ‘Child Abuse’ Investigations (Forbes)

Ken Paxton, lawyers for parents of trans kids disagree on whether child abuse investigations can continue (Texas Tribune)

Dreading the knock at the door: Parents of trans kids in Texas are terrified for their families (Washington Post)

After accepting her trans son’s hard-fought identity, a Texas mother is being investigated for child abuse (Texas Tribune)

Source: Forbes

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