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Supreme Court clears way, for now, for Idaho to ban transgender treatment for minors

The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday temporarily allowed Idaho to enforce a ban on gender-affirming treatment for minors, effectively suggesting that at least some justices appear comfortable with wading into another front in the culture wars.  (New York Times)
By Abbie VanSickle New York Times

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily allowed a ban to take effect in Idaho on gender-affirming treatment for minors, a signal that at least some justices appear comfortable with wading into another front in the culture wars.

In siding with state officials who had asked the court to lift a block on the law, the justices were split, with a majority of the conservative justices voting to enforce the ban over the objections of the three liberal justices. The justices also specified that their decision would remain in place until the appeals process had ended.

The court specified that it would allow the ban to apply to everyone except the plaintiffs who brought the challenge.

Although orders on the emergency docket often include no reasoning, the decision included concurrences by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was joined by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented and was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Elena Kagan noted a dissent.

The law, passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, makes it a felony for doctors to provide transgender medical care for minors, including hormone treatment.

States around the country have pushed to restrict transgender rights. At least 20 states with Republican-controlled legislatures, including Idaho, have enacted legislation that limits access for gender transition care for minors.

Idaho officials had appealed to the Supreme Court after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, upheld a temporary block on the law as litigation continues in lower courts.

The law, the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, makes it a crime for medical providers to offer medical care to transgender teenagers.

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, in his emergency application, said the case raised a recurring question that a majority of the justices had expressed interest in: whether a court can enact what is known as a universal injunction, which freezes a state law from going into effect – not just for the parties directly involved in the case, but for everyone.

Labrador contended that a federal court erred in applying the freeze so expansively. “The plaintiffs are two minors and their parents, and the injunction covers two million,” he wrote.

Temporarily barring the law meant “leaving vulnerable children subject to procedures that even plaintiffs’ experts agree are inappropriate for some of them,” he added.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.