Texas top court lets ban on gender treatments for minors take effect

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday allowed a state law banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors, such as puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries, to take effect while it hears a legal challenge to the statute.

The ruling came after a judge last Friday blocked the law in response to a challenge by the families of transgender children and doctors. The law is set to take effect Friday.

"Today’s cruel ruling places Texas’ transgender youth, and the families and medical professionals who love and care for them, directly in harm’s way," lawyers for the families said in a joint statement.

The Texas Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The state had filed the appeal to the Supreme Court, which automatically put the lower court's order on hold and allowed the law to take effect as scheduled.

The families' lawyers asked the state's highest court for an emergency order again blocking the law while the appeal is heard, but the court rebuffed the request, without giving a reason.

Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed the law in June. Texas is one of at least 20 states that have banned or restricted gender-affirming care for minors.

Supporters of such bans have said the treatments are unproven and risky. Mainstream U.S. medical groups have opposed the bans and maintain that gender-affirming care improves transgender patients' mental health and reduces the risk of suicide.

In her ruling last Friday, District Judge Maria Cantu Hexsel of Travis County in Austin found the families were likely to succeed in challenging the law, which she wrote "stands directly at odds with parents' fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children."

Hexsel, who was elected as a Democrat, also found that the law discriminates against transgender youth based on their transgender status, interfering with doctors' relationships with patients and their right to practice medicine.

Several other similar state laws have been blocked by judges, though a federal appeals court earlier in August revived Alabama's ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Jonathan Oatis)