Tennessee Families and Doctors Urge Supreme Court to Block Ban on Essential Health Care for Transgender Youth

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
November 1, 2023 9:17 am

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WASHINGTON – Transgender youth, their families, and their medical providers today asked the Supreme Court of the United States to block a Tennessee law banning gender-affirming medical care for trans people under 18.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, Lambda Legal, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, asked the Court to review a September 2023 decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals allowing Tennessee’s ban to stay in effect. The Tennessee law prohibits medical providers from treating transgender youth with evidence-based gender-affirming medical treatment and requires youth currently receiving gender-affirming care to end that care by March 31, 2024.

“It’s hard to overstate the difference that our daughter’s medical treatment has made in her life and our family’s life,” said Samantha Williams of Nashville, TN. “Before coming out and starting to receive this medical care she struggled to make friends, keep her grades up, or even accept hugs from her family. Now, we have a confident, happy daughter who is free to be herself. We know that her gender-affirming medical care is ensuring she can thrive, which is the most important thing to us as parents. I want the Justices to see and understand my daughter and recognize her rights under the Constitution like any other person, and to see that if parents like me don’t have the right to determine what’s best for our children, then no parent does.”

“I’m fighting this law because I know how important this care is for tens of thousands of transgender youth like me,” said 15-year-old L.W., Samantha and Brian Williams’ daughter. “It scares me to think about losing the medication that I need and if this law continues, my family may have to leave Tennessee – the place I have lived and loved my entire life. And with so many new laws like Tennessee’s, it is hard to imagine where we can even go. I want the Justices to know transgender people are not going away and that we deserve the same rights as everyone else.”

“In just the last year, transgender people and our families have had our rights and our lives radically rewritten by politicians with a chosen ignorance of the facts of our lives and medical care,” said Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “Tens of thousands of transgender youth like L.W. are at risk of losing the medical care that serves as the foundation of their entire life because of brand new laws that target them and only them. These laws not only destabilize the lives of transgender youth but also disrupt their families and communities and threaten established legal protections with far-reaching implications. The justices have an opportunity to follow long-standing precedent and block Tennessee’s dangerous law.”

“Over the past few months this vicious law has already had a disastrous impact in homes and communities across Tennessee,” said Lucas Cameron-Vaughn, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Tennessee. “Families are losing access to much-needed medical care that has allowed their children to flourish. This law denies these families’ dignity and signals to their children that they do not have the freedom to lead healthy and happy lives. Gender-affirming medical care is evidence-based and safe. Transgender youth along with their families and doctors are the only people who should be making private decisions about their health care – not politicians. We urge the justices to block this cruel discriminatory law and protect our clients’ freedom to access the medical care they need.”

“Transgender youth, their families, and their providers across the nation are feeling the ripple effects of these cruel and relentless attacks,” said Sruti Swaminathan, Staff Attorney for Youth, Lambda Legal. “State legislatures are forcing families to leave states that they have called home their entire lives, disrupting the health care of young people, and punishing providers for helping keep young people safe and affirmed in their identities. Tennessee is one of 21 states that has passed a categorical ban on life-saving health care, and SB1 exemplifies just how far politicians are willing to go to block transgender youth from becoming adults.”

Applying the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County and other long-standing precedent, district courts have blocked such bans in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In August 2023, a panel from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alabama’s ban should take effect while a legal challenge against it proceeds, a decision that is now on appeal to the full Appeals Court.

In June 2023, a federal court in Arkansas struck down that state’s ban on gender-affirming care after a two-week trial in the first ruling on the merits of such a law, finding it violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Today’s filing can be found here.

More on LW. v. Skrmetti can be found here.

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