Several Tennessee families of transgender children filed a petition with the US Supreme Court Wednesday asking that the Court strike down a Tennessee state law that bans gender-affirming care, alleging that the ban is unconstitutional and would cause their children “severe physical and emotional harm.”
The petition claims that the ban is a violation of the transgender adolescents’ Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights, as well as a breach of the parents’ right to make decisions concerning the care of their children “guaranteed by the due process clause.” One parent said that the “legislation would force us to either routinely leave the state to get our daughter the medical care she desperately needs or to uproot our entire lives and leave Tennessee altogether.”
Tennessee Senate Bill (SB) 0001 prohibits “healthcare providers” from providing or offering to provide medical care administered with the purpose of “enabling a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex.” It also bans care that treats “discomfort or distress from the discordance between the minor’s sex and asserted identity.” The bill includes exceptions for medical procedures for minors suffering from congenital defects or diseases but specifically excludes gender dysphoria and other gender-related conditions that transgender children often suffer from. While the language does not ban specific treatments it is broad enough to cover nearly any treatment used to treat gender dysphoria.
Lawmakers have defended the bill as protecting children from what they term “experimental” treatments lacking scientific studies for long-term effects. Medical professionals have asserted that transgender youth foregoing gender-affirming care can suffer “disproportionate levels of violence and bullying” and that the care is crucial for mental health, lowering the rate of depression and suicide in transgender youth. Doctors have also pushed back against claims that the use of “puberty blockers” is an experimental practice, claiming it they have safely been in use for some time.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who is a party in the petition, has accused the law and laws like it around the country of destabilizing “the lives of transgender youth” and disrupting the lives of “their families and communities.” Conversely, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti had praised the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s previous decision in the case which reversed a district court’s preliminary injunction against the law, calling it a “big win for democracy.”
The appeal to the Supreme Court comes amidst a wave of numerous bills banning or restricting gender affirming care throughout the US. Several months ago a federal court judge struck down an Arkansas ban on the controversial care while courts in other states have issued preliminary injunctions against the laws. The petition to the Supreme Court provides an opportunity for the country’s highest court to weigh in on the issue and settle potentially confusing splits in authority amongst the courts.