US federal judge temporarily blocks Indiana ban on gender-affirming care News
© WikiMedia (Ted Eytan)
US federal judge temporarily blocks Indiana ban on gender-affirming care

The US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana temporarily blocked an Indiana law on Friday that banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The law, S.E.A. 480, was set to go into effect July 1 and restricted care like puberty blockers and hormone treatments. It also included a ban on gender reassignment surgeries for minors. Physicians that recommended any kind of gender-affirming care to minors faced the loss of their license.

In his order, Judge Patrick Hanlon said that the people challenging the law showed “some likelihood of success on their claims that S.E.A. 480 would violate their equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and free speech rights under the First Amendment.” Although he said that the state of Indiana has an interest in enforcing its laws, Judge Hanlon concluded that those interests were outweighed by the likelihood of the law’s unconstitutionality and the risk of “irreparable harm.” The order blocked enforcement of provisions related to gender affirming-care but left in place provisions about surgeries because those procedures are not occurring in Indiana.

LGBTQ+ and civil rights groups celebrated the decision, with ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk saying:

Today’s victory is a testament to the trans youth of Indiana, their families, and their allies, who never gave up the fight to protect access to gender-affirming care and who will continue to defend the right of all trans people to be their authentic selves, free from discrimination. We won’t rest until this unconstitutional law is struck down for good.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed S.E.A. 480 in April 2023, and the ACLU challenged it soon after. When the ACLU filed its challenge, Falk said that “gender-affirming care is life-saving care for our clients, and they’re terrified of what will happen if this law is allowed to take effect” and that “no child should be cut off from the medical care they need or denied their fundamental right to be themselves.”

State legislatures across the US have targeted gender-affirming care and the LGBTQ+ community in the past year. As a result, LGBTQ+ rights groups at the state and national levels have issued travel warnings and declared a state of emergency. Most of these laws have been challenged, and Judge Hanlon’s order blocking S.E.A. 480 adds to LGBTQ+ advocates’ recent victories in court. Most recently, a US federal judge blocked Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth last week, saying that “gender identity is real.”

Advocates hope that courts will continue to rule in their favor. “We warned lawmakers that if they passed laws attacking trans people that they would see us in court,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “Our work in Indiana and around the country is far from over — including with this law.”