Tennessee families ask US Supreme Court to block ban on gender-affirming care

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) -Three Tennessee families of transgender children on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a state law banning so-called gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers and hormones, for patients under 18.

In their petition, the first filed before the nation's highest court in a series of lawsuits over similar bans around the country, the families said the ban would cause "severe physical and emotional harm" by preventing the children, a 12-year-old and two who are 15, from receiving necessary care.

They argue that the ban runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution in two ways: by banning treatments on the basis of the patient's sex, and by interfering with parents' fundamental right to direct their children's medical treatment.

"We look forward to litigating this case to the fullest extent necessary," a spokesperson for Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said in a statement.

The Cincinnati, Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Tennessee and Kentucky to enforce bans on gender-affirming care in September. Families challenging the Kentucky ban have not yet filed a petition to the Supreme Court.

Mainstream U.S. medical associations say gender-affirming care is appropriate and a potentially life-saving treatment for gender dysphoria, or distress caused by the mismatch between transgender people's sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. Proponents of bans on the treatments, which have been passed by many Republican-led states, say they are experimental and risk long-term harm.

Courts have been divided on legal challenges to the bans. Most lower level courts to consider the bans have blocked them so far. The Georgia-based 11th U.S. Circuit in August upheld an Alabama ban. The St. Louis, Missouri-based 8th Circuit last year blocked an Arkansas ban, though the court is expected to consider the issue again.

The Tennessee families urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue in part to avoid the "chaos" of conflicting court rulings.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)