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Judge temporarily blocks Texas AG’s demand for transgender minors’ records

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 26: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt talk to reporters after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in their case about Title 42 on April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. Paxton and Schmitt, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, are suing to challenge the the Biden Administration’s repeal of the Trump Migrant Protection Protocols–aka “Remain in Mexico.” (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)  (Chip Somodevilla)
By Colbi Edmonds New York Times

A judge on Friday temporarily blocked the Texas attorney general from forcing an LGBTQ+ organization to turn over documents on transgender minors and the gender-affirming care they may be receiving.

In Texas, medical care for gender transition is prohibited for minors under a law passed last year.

As part of an investigation into violations of the ban, the office of Attorney General Ken Paxton demanded early last month that the nonprofit PFLAG National, which supports families in accessing gender-affirming care for children, provide information on minors in the state who may have received such treatments.

But on Friday, Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel of Travis County District Court issued an injunction against Paxton, just days after PFLAG sued to block the request, saying turning over the documents would cause “irreparable injury, loss or damage” to the group. The judge added that such an ask would infringe on the group’s constitutional rights and that its members would be subject to “gross invasions” of privacy.

In a statement, PFLAG’s lawyers, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said they were “grateful that the court saw the harm the attorney general’s office’s intrusive demands posed.”

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday’s order. But he has previously argued that the information from PFLAG is “highly relevant” to his investigation into medical providers who he says are trying to work around the ban on gender-affirming care for minors. “Any organization seeking to violate this law, commit fraud or weaponize science and medicine against children will be held accountable,” he said in a statement.

The judge scheduled a hearing for March 25 to give the attorney general a chance to argue against the injunction.

The ruling comes as legislation on transgender rights continues to be a focus nationwide. Republicans have pushed and passed dozens of laws that aim to restrict these rights, including ones that put limits on bathroom use and sports team participation.

At least 23 states have banned gender-transition care for minors, with Texas being the largest among those. Along with barring minors from getting the treatments, the law in Texas says doctors who provide such care will have their medical licenses revoked, and it bans health insurance plans from covering the treatments. In Texas, there were about 30,000 transgender people ages 13-17 between 2017 and 2020, according to a report by the Williams Institute at UCLA.

In recent months, the attorney general has made multiple attempts to obtain transgender patient records as he tries to crack down on people who he suspects may be violating state law. Along with PFLAG, Paxton probed two children’s hospitals in the state for medical records of patients who received gender-affirming care.

He has also gone beyond state lines for such records. In November, Paxton sent a subpoena to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, seeking records of patients from Texas who had received the care there. The hospital system sued the attorney general’s office in December, and a judge has yet to rule on that case.

The documents case is not the first time PFLAG has challenged Texas’ attempts to prevent gender-affirming care for transgender youth. In 2022, the group successfully asked a judge to temporarily block Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to investigate families who have transgender children receiving gender-affirming care or treatment for gender dysphoria. That order also stemmed from Paxton, who has claimed that gender-affirming care for transgender children is “child abuse.” The outcome of that lawsuit is also pending.

Medical professionals have debated which children should be receiving gender-affirming treatments and at what age. But leading medical groups in the United States, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, say such care should be available to minors and oppose legislative bans.

PFLAG also challenged the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors after it was signed into law. That case over the constitutionality of the law is still ongoing, but the state’s Supreme Court in September allowed the ban to take effect in the meantime.

Several lawsuits have been lodged in other states to challenge their gender-affirming care bans. In November, plaintiffs in the case against Tennessee’s law petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in. The court has not yet decided on whether to hear the case.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.