Texas judge blocks state ban on gender-affirming care for minors

A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham North Carolina

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) -A Texas judge on Friday blocked a Republican-backed state law banning so-called gender-affirming care including puberty blockers, hormones and surgery for transgender minors from taking effect next week while she hears a legal challenge to it.

However, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said it filed an immediate appeal to the state Supreme Court, an action that would automatically put the judge's order on hold and let the law take effect at least until the appeal is decided.

Judge Maria Cantu Hexsel of the District Court of Travis County in Austin, who was elected as a Democrat, found that the families of transgender children and doctors suing the state to challenge the law, which was set to take effect on Sept. 1, were likely to succeed in proving that it violated their rights under the state constitution.

Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed the law in June, making Texas one of at least 20 states to ban gender-affirming care. Supporters of such laws have said the treatments are unproven and risky.

But the judge wrote, "The Act's prohibition on providing evidence-based treatment for adolescents with gender dysphoria stands directly at odds with parents' fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children."

She 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.

"The court decision is a critical victory for transgender youth and their families, supporters and health providers against this blatantly unconstitutional law," Brian Klosterboer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, a lawyer for the families, said in a statement.

Mainstream U.S. medical groups including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose the measure and maintain that gender-affirming care improves transgender patients' mental health and reduces the risk of suicide.

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

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Christian Schmollinger)