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LGBTQ rights groups sue Tennessee over ban on gender-affirming youth care

LGBTQ rights groups sue Tennessee over ban on gender-affirming youth care
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Three LGBTQ rights groups are suing the state of Tennessee over a new law that bars medical professionals from providing gender-affirming health care to transgender minors.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its Tennessee affiliate Lambda Legal and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld allege that Senate Bill 1 of Tennessee “will cause serious and irreparable harm” to transgender youth. people and their families if it is allowed to come into force on July 1.

The measure, which bans gender-affirming health care for young people under 18, was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee in March. Lee the same day approved the first national law restricting drag shows, criminalizing certain performances that take place in public or when they can be viewed by a minor.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal said they plan to sue the state after the bill passes. THURSDAY, the ACLU tweeted“Tennessee, we’ll see you in court.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Samantha and Brian Williams and their 15-year-old transgender daughter, two other families of unnamed plaintiffs, and Dr. Susan Lacy, a Memphis-based doctor who treats transgender minors.

“I don’t even want to think about having to go back to the dark place where I was before I can go out and access the care that my doctors have prescribed for me,” said the daughter of Samantha and Brian Williams, nicknamed LW in the court filings because she is a minor, a press release said Thursday. “I want this law overturned so that I can continue to receive the care I need, in conversation with my parents and doctors, and have the freedom to live my life and do the things I love. “

The lawsuit names Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, as well as the Tennessee Department of Health and other state defendants. A spokesperson for Skrmetti’s office told The Hill that they have not yet seen the lawsuit but are “looking forward” to reviewing it.

“Growing evidence has persuaded a growing number of countries that irreversible medical interventions are not appropriate for children with symptoms of gender dysphoria,” Elizabeth Lane, Skrmetti’s press officer, said in a statement to The Hill. “The Tennessee General Assembly passed a law to protect the children of Tennessee from the lifelong consequences of these interventions, and we will vigorously defend this law.”

More than a fifth of transgender youth live in a state where gender-affirming health care is banned, according to a recent report by the Movement Advancement Project, which tracks legislation impacting the country’s LGBTQ community.

Fifteen states since 2021 have enacted laws or policies that prohibit transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health care, which is considered medically necessary by most major medical organizations. Three states – Alabama, Idaho and North Dakota – have passed laws that classify the administration of gender-affirming health care to a minor as a felony, punishable by heavy fines and several years in prison. .

Last year, a federal judge also temporarily blocked the Alabama law from taking effect, pending the outcome of another ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of two families with transgender children. . The ACLU has filed similar lawsuits challenging the bans in Arkansas and Indiana.

In a statement Thursday, Samantha Williams said her daughter, LW, had mental health issues before the family could access care. LW began his social transition in 2020 and was prescribed puberty blockers by his doctors at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital the following year, after he began seeing a mental health specialist who diagnosed him with dysphoria of gender, according to Thursday’s trial.

“We now have a confident, happy daughter who is free to be herself and thriving. I’m so scared of what this law will mean for her,” Samantha Williams said Thursday. “We don’t want to leave Tennessee, but this legislation would force us to either automatically leave our state so our daughter can get the medical care she desperately needs, or uproot our entire lives and leave Tennessee altogether.”

“No family should have to make those kinds of choices,” she added.

Only three of Tennessee’s nine bordering states — Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina — have yet to pass laws severely restricting or prohibiting gender-affirming health care for transgender minors. Bills to that effect are progressing in North Carolina and South Carolina, but similar measures failed to pass through the Virginia legislature before the end of this year’s legislative session.

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