US federal court allows Tennessee ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors News
Luiz1940, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
US federal court allows Tennessee ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled on Saturday in favor of Tennessee, removing a temporary injunction placed on a Tennessee law banning gender-affirming healthcare for minors, including hormones and puberty blockers. This ruling will allow the ban to be in effect immediately, despite ongoing litigation.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton, writing for the majority, opined that the district court that granted the original injunction had exceeded its scope, saying, “A court order that goes beyond the injuries of a particular plaintiff to enjoin government action against nonparties exceeds the norms of judicial power.” Sutton also went on to claim that the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on their constitutional claims, saying:

[T]he challengers do not argue that the original fixed meaning of either the due process or equal protection guarantee covers these claims. That prompts the question of whether the people of this country ever agreed to remove debates of this sort—about the use of new drug treatments on minors—from the conventional place for dealing with new norms, new drugs, and new technologies: the democratic process. Life-tenured federal judges should be wary of removing a vexing and novel topic of medical debate from the ebbs and flows of democracy by construing a largely unamendable federal constitution to occupy the field.

Sutton concluded, saying, “These initial views, we must acknowledge, are just that: initial. We may be wrong. It may be that the one week we have had to resolve this motion does not suffice to see our own mistakes.”

Judge Helen White concurred in part and dissented in part, writing, “Because I believe that Tennessee’s law is likely unconstitutional based on Plaintiffs’ theory of sex discrimination, I would not stay the district court’s injunction, although I would narrow its scope.”

Groups who assisted the plaintiffs in filing the original suit, including The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP have condemned the ruling, stating, “This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, and their families.” However, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti celebrated the ruling, saying, “The case is far from over, but this is a big win.”

The original suit, LW v. Skrmetti, was filed in April by several Tennessee families, and challenged SB 1, Tennessee’s ban on transgender healthcare for minors, claiming it is unconstitutional and discriminatory. SB 1 was passed in 2022 and signed into law by Tennessee’s governor in March. The US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee originally granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the ban while litigation was ongoing. Skrmetti’s office appealed the district court ruling at the end of June.

LGBTQ+ issues have been in the foreground in Tennessee in the last few months, with the state’s ban on drag performance struck down in early June.