In a recent development, a federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled to allow a state law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender minors to take effect. This decision has added to the growing divide among courts regarding the enforceability of such laws.
Gender-affirming care encompasses treatments such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery, which major U.S. medical associations argue are appropriate and potentially life-saving treatments for gender dysphoria. On the other side, proponents of the bans contend that these treatments are unproven and pose long-term risks.
U.S. District Judge John Heil in Tulsa issued a preliminary order, stating that the families challenging the law were unlikely to prove that it illegally discriminates on the basis of sex or infringes on parents’ rights. A spokesperson for the Oklahoma Attorney General expressed their commitment to defending the law, which has now resulted in full enforcement.
The law, passed in May, criminalizes the provision of “medical or surgical services performed for the purpose of attempting to affirm the minor’s perception of his or her gender or biological sex, if that perception is inconsistent with the minor’s biological sex.” Five families had sued the state to block the law, claiming discrimination based on transgender status and violation of parents’ rights.
Judge Heil, while refusing to halt the law during the lawsuit, argued that the law specifically targets certain treatments, not sex, and emphasized that the U.S. Constitution does not recognize a “fundamental right” for parents to choose particular medical treatments for their children.
This ruling in Oklahoma follows similar decisions in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama, where federal appeals courts have allowed similar bans to take effect. However, several federal district courts in states like Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Indiana, along with a state court in Montana, have overturned such bans. This legal discord could potentially lead to the issue being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in the future, although there is no current petition before the court.
This ongoing legal battle highlights the complex and contentious nature of transgender rights and healthcare access for minors in the United States.