Federal judges say Tennessee can enforce a gender-based grooming ban

Tennessee may initially enforce its ban on gender-based childcare in the state after a federal appeals court ruling on Saturday.

The ruling was part of a civil lawsuit filed by a Tennessee couple, their teenage transgender daughter, two anonymous families and a doctor. The group is dropping an objection to new law signed in March that bans trans youth from taking hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender-confirming surgery.

“The challengers have failed to show that a right to new medical treatments is ‘rooted in our history and traditions,’ and therefore outside the democratic regulatory process,” wrote Jeffrey Sutton, chief justice of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a former President George W. Bush appointed.

He cited the 1997 Washington vs. Glucksberg Supreme Court ruling, though the same statement about “history” and “tradition” became infamous after the Supreme Court overturned statewide abortion laws in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health case last summer .

Sutton argued that it was more appropriate for state legislatures, rather than judges, to resolve the issue of gender-based childcare. He also used the Dobbs decision to argue that one of the lawsuit’s core claims required less judicial review than a lower court believed. And Sutton pointed out that the drugs used in gender specific care may not be safe because they are prescribed “off label,” meaning the FDA has not officially approved them for such uses, even though many drugs are given to children “off label.” “ would be prescribed.

“Given the high risks of this burgeoning policy consideration — the long-term health of children suffering from gender dysphoria — sound government typically benefits from more debate rather than less,” Sutton wrote. He was joined by Judge Amul Thapar, a former President of Donald Trump.

A district court blocked the state from enforcing the law in late June, joining several others who had also temporarily halted other states’ bans.

The district judge — another Trump-appointed judge — argued the law was likely unconstitutional because it provided for sex discrimination. Sutton and Thapar voted to temporarily lift the district court’s injunction pending a full review of the matter, setting an expedited deadline of September 30.

The Tennessee legislature contained many misleading statements about gender-sensitive care, such as labeling it “experimental” when such treatments have been offered for decades and are endorsed by many major medical organizations. Sutton uncritically repeated several misleading claims, drawing heavily on the idea that gendered grooming was “irreversible.”

“Tennessee’s interest in applying the law to its residents and protecting its children from health risks speaks strongly for the state at this time,” Sutton wrote.

The third judge on the panel, Helene White, partly agreed and partly disagreed. White was appointed by Bush after her nomination by President Bill Clinton had lasted for years and then expired. She expressed strong doubts about the majority claim that the law does not violate the constitution’s equal treatment clause by allowing equal treatment for cisgender youth. However, she agreed that the district court should not have sought the injunction statewide.

While the measure was originally set to go into effect on July 1, Saturday’s decision meant it would go into effect immediately. It allows minors receiving gender-affirming care before July 1 to continue their treatment until March 31, 2024.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (right) praised the verdict.

“The case is far from closed, but this is a great victory,” he said in one opinion.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the lawsuit, called the decision “more than disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors and their families.”

The group said in a statement: “As we and our clients consider our next steps, we want all transgender youth in Tennessee to know that this fight is far from over, and we will continue to challenge this law until it is.” is finally defeated and Tennessee becomes a safer place for every family to raise.”

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