Texas officials have already begun investigating parents of transgender children following Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) abrupt directive against care for trans youth in the state last week. And a parent who works for the state agency carrying out the governor’s order — and one of the first parents in the state targeted by an anti-trans rights probe — is waging a legal battle against it.
In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Lambda Legal on Tuesday, an employee of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, who has a 16-year-old transgender child, said an investigator from the agency visited her to inquire about medical records related to her child.
According to the filing, the unnamed employee of DFPS communicated with her supervisor at DFPS to seek clarification on how Abbott’s directive for state agencies to begin investigating gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths might impact DFPS’ office policies. The employee claimed that hours after seeking clarification, she was put on administrative leave “because she has a transgender daughter with a medical need for treatment of gender dysphoria,” according to the complaint.
A day after being placed on leave, the employee alleged that she was informed her family would be investigated in accordance with Abbott’s directive to determine whether she and the child’s other parent had “committed abuse” by obtaining medical care for their transgender daughter.
When a DFPS Child Protective Services investigator visited the family of the child, identified in court documents as “Mary Doe,” the DFPS employee and the other parent of the transgender child refused to voluntarily hand records over to the agency, the complaint alleges.
According to the filing, the only allegations DFPS has made against the parents are that they have a transgender daughter who may have been provided with gender-affirming health care and is “currently transitioning from male to female.”
“We are terrified for Mary’s health and well-being, and for our family,” the DFPS employee wrote in the filing. “I feel betrayed by my state and the agency for whom I work.”
The DFPS employee argued that failure to provide her transgender child “medically necessary health care” is “not an option for us.” The plaintiff is suing to block DFPS’ request for medical records related to her transgender daughter. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks to challenge the legitimacy of state investigations into gender-affirming care for trans youth. It also challenges Abbott’s characterization of gender-affirming health care for trans youth as “child abuse.”
The lawsuit brought by the DFPS employee comes the same day as the Texas governor primary. Abbott is seeking the GOP’s nomination in the gubernatorial race later this year.
In his latest salvo against transgender rights, Abbott sent a letter last month to DFPS directing the agency to investigate gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, with a specific focus on surgical care.
“Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” Abbott wrote to DFPS last month.
Abbott’s directive followed state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s release of a non-binding AG opinion earlier in February, which characterized certain gender-affirming treatments for minors as a form of “child abuse” under state law.
The Texas governor parroted Paxton’s “opinion” language in his directive issued last month, calling some forms of gender-affirming care and surgeries “abusive procedures.”
In his letter, Abbott threatened licensed professionals who come into contact with transgender children with “criminal penalties for failure to report” on gender-affirming care. Additionally, the governor’s directive demanded that DFPS and other state agencies investigate parents who permit their transgender children to undergo gender-affirming procedures.
It didn’t take long for Abbott’s directive to receive pushback from local officials. In a statement issued last week, district attorneys in five of the largest counties in Texas announced that they will not comply with the governor’s directive. The group, which is comprised of five Democratic district attorneys, took aim at Abbott and Paxton’s characterization of gender-affirming care for minors as “child abuse.” They declared that Abbott and Paxton’s recent rhetoric is an “onslaught on personal freedoms,” and an assault on trans rights that is, on its face, “un-American.”