I’m back in the Austin Chronicle this week with another update on the fight for trans rights for young people in Texas. The Texas Supreme Court issued a nuanced ruling that overall criticized the state for overstepping their legal authority. This was a complex story, as a lot of publications, especially big national outlets like NPR and the New York Times, got this one very wrong:
While neither side got exactly what they’d wanted from the May 13 decision, Shelly Skeen, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal representing the plaintiffs, told the Chronicle that the ruling was overall a win for trans young people and their families. The court emphasized the importance of the rule of law, which the state has tried to ignore. “The law is clear and the law says parents have to provide medically necessary care for their kids, and to not do so is child abuse,” she told us. Medical experts overwhelmingly agree that providing age-appropriate care for transgender young people improves their lives and greatly reduces incidences of suicide.
Attorney General Ken Paxton sought to dismiss the suit entirely, but the court disagreed. It upheld a restraining order against Child Protective Services investigations of families with trans kids, but also narrowed the scope of the restraining order so that it no longer applies to all families in Texas, just the anonymous family and Houston-based psychologist involved in the lawsuit. This last may seem like a defeat for trans rights, and that’s how many media outlets interpreted the decision (such as The New York Times, whose headline read “Texas Court Allows Abuse Inquiries of Parents of Transgender Children”). According to Skeen and other legal experts, that minimizes the actual text of the decision, which sharply criticizes the state government. On Twitter, Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s deputy director for transgender justice, lamented the misleading headlines. “No family should be investigated solely because they are treating their adolescent child with medically prescribed care for gender dysphoria,” Strangio tweeted. “That is the takeaway.”