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Kentucky's gender-affirming care ban restored by federal judge

Transgender minors will no longer have access to puberty blockers and hormone therapy in Kentucky.
Protesters of Kentucky Senate Bill SB150 cheer during a rally.
Posted at 9:20 PM, Jul 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-14 21:20:24-04

Kentucky's ban on gender-affirming care for young transgender people was restored Friday when a federal judge lifted an injunction he issued last month that had temporarily blocked the restrictions.

The latest ruling by U.S. District Judge David Hale means the Kentucky prohibition goes into effect, preventing transgender minors from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

Kentucky Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who had asked that the injunction be lifted, applauded the ruling, while transgender rights advocates denounced it.

"What the courts are allowing to happen to LGBTQ people right now is an American tragedy, one that will besmirch the legacy of every judge who has opened the door to LGBTQ discrimination," said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

Cameron called the latest ruling a "win for parents and children," adding he was grateful to the judge "for doing what the law requires, which is protecting Kentucky kids."

Hartman warned that the statewide ban would result in "immediate harm" for young transgender people and their families in Kentucky.

"They will now be forced to travel outside the commonwealth or move out of state entirely to access their medically necessary care," he said.

Hale's reversal of his own order came nearly a week after the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a similar temporary injunction halting enforcement of a similar law in Tennessee.

Protesters of Kentucky Senate bill SB150, known as the Transgender Health Bill, cheer on speakers during a rally on the lawn

What really is gender-affirming care?

Gender-affirming health care doesn't have to involve a transgender, non-binary, or gender-diverse patient at all.

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In the Kentucky case, seven transgender children and their parents have sued to block the law. They argue that it violates their constitutional rights and interferes with parental rights to seek established medical treatment for their children.

Corey Shapiro, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said Friday that the latest ruling "is not the final word" on the matter. The group called it a temporary setback, and Shapiro expressed confidence of achieving a "positive result" before another federal court.

Last month, Hale's injunction blocking portions of the Kentucky law came a day before the measure was to take effect. At the time, the judge said the plaintiffs showed "a strong likelihood of success on the merits" of their constitutional challenges.

The sweeping transgender legislation was passed this year by Kentucky's GOP-dominated Legislature over Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's veto. Beshear said the measure allowed "too much government interference in personal healthcare issues." Cameron, whose office is defending the law, is challenging Beshear in the race for Kentucky governor. It's one of the nation's most closely watched elections of 2023.

The lawsuit challenges sections of the Kentucky law banning puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender minors. It didn't take aim at other sections dealing with school bathroom policies, guidance for teachers regarding student pronouns and rules on teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation.

At least 20 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and most of those states face lawsuits. A federal judge struck down Arkansas' ban as unconstitutional, and federal judges have temporarily blocked bans in Alabama and Indiana. Oklahoma has agreed to not enforce its ban while opponents seek a temporary court order blocking it. A federal judge has blocked Florida from enforcing its ban on three children who have challenged the law.

The states that have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia.