US federal court blocks Georgia ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth News
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US federal court blocks Georgia ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

A federal court in Georgia blocked a state ban on Sunday that banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth, finding the law is likely unconstitutional. The law, SB 140, prohibits institutions from providing “sex reassignment surgeries, or any other surgical procedures, that are performed for the purpose of altering primary or secondary sexual characteristics,” in minors. The ruling is the latest in a series of cases blocking or striking down bans on gender-affirming care.

In her decision to issue the injunction, Judge Sarah E. Geraghty said that the ban would likely result in immediate harm to the plaintiffs planning to receive hormone therapy. The judge agreed with the assertion that denial of hormone therapy could result in “harmful physical and psychological effects.” Geraghty also acknowledged harm to the plaintiffs’ parents for the emotional stress and financial stress that included a possible plan to move out of state to obtain gender-affirming care.

Additionally, Geraghty’s decision found the ban was likely in conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment, as the intent of the law was to make medical intervention illegal for individuals whose assigned sex at birth did not match their gender identity. In doing this, Geraghty held the law amounted to a sex-based classification because it “discriminat[ed] against. . . transgender individual[s] because of [their] gender-nonconformity[.]” Sex-based classifications are unlawful under the Equal Protection Clause unless they serve important governmental objectives and are substantially related to the achievement of the government’s stated objectives.

The decision largely rejected Georgia’s argument that the law protected “the physical and mental well-being of minors,” noting that every medical procedure carries some risk and the risks inherent in gender-affirming care are no greater than other non-banned procedures. Geraghty stated that Georgia failed to show a close “means-end fit” between the law and the state’s interests in protecting minors with a total ban. 

The counsel for the plaintiffs celebrated the injunction in a statement, saying:

This decision is an incredible victory for Georgia families. We are gratified that the Court carefully considered the evidence and appropriately applied the law in halting SB 140. This law unapologetically targets transgender minors and denies them essential health care. The ruling restores parents’ rights to make medical decisions that are in their child’s best interest, including hormone therapy for their transgender children when needed for them to thrive and be healthy.

The injunction took effect immediately and will remain pending further litigation. The law is the eighth to be halted by a federal court, including a ban in Arkansas that was struck down as unconstitutional. However, a gender-affirming care ban for minors in Tennessee was allowed to take effect in July after a temporary injunction was removed.