U.S. judges block bans on transgender youth healthcare in Kentucky, Tennessee


By Brendan Pierson and Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) -Federal judges in Kentucky and Tennessee on Wednesday blocked state laws prohibiting the use of puberty-blocking drugs and hormones for transgender children from taking effect while lawsuits challenging the bans proceed.

They are the latest in a series of similar rulings around the country, with laws in seven states now prevented from taking effect.

Federal courts in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Indiana have blocked similar bans on transgender healthcare for minors, and in Oklahoma the plaintiffs reached an agreement with the attorney general to halt enforcement of the state’s law.

The lawsuits are fighting back against legislation passed in 20 states that ban certain healthcare procedures for transgender youth. Republican lawmakers say they want to protect children who might be misled by doctors and parents and could later regret their gender transition.

But families filing lawsuits have argued the treatments are medically necessary and the bans violate the U.S. Constitution’s right to equal protection by prohibiting medical treatments on the basis of sex, as well as parents’ right to make medical decisions for their children.

In the Kentucky case, U.S. District Judge David Hale in Louisville found that the seven families of transgender children suing over the law were likely to prevail, writing that puberty blockers and hormones were “medically appropriate and necessary for some transgender children.”

He said that the plaintiffs — including six children currently receiving treatments that would be banned by the law, and one who expects to receive such treatments in the future — would be harmed if the law were allowed to take effect.

Democratic Governor Andy Beshear had vetoed the Kentucky law, but the Republican-controlled legislature overrode the veto.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, criticized the judge’s ruling, calling the ban “a commonsense law that protects Kentucky children from unnecessary medical experimentation.”

“Today’s misguided decision by a federal judge tramples the right of the General Assembly to make public policy,” Cameron said.

In Tennessee, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson said he was reticent to enjoin a law “enacted through a democratic process,” but noted that judges across the country have blocked similar laws based on the constitutional right to equal protection.

“The Court does not take providing such relief lightly. … If Tennessee wishes to regulate access to certain medical procedures, it must do so in a manner that does not infringe on the rights conferred by the United States Constitution,” Richardson wrote.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)

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