Supreme Court to Rule on Gender-Affirming Care for Transgender Minors

Jimmy Williams

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case challenging a Tennessee law that restricts gender-affirming care for transgender minors. This decision places the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, at the center of a heated culture-war debate over transgender rights.

The justices will review an appeal from the Biden administration against a lower court ruling that upheld the Tennessee measure. Oral arguments and a decision are expected in the court’s next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2025.

This case will be the first time the Supreme Court will issue a ruling on transgender rights for minors, impacting both healthcare and education sectors.

Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, emphasized the case’s importance, stating, “The future of countless transgender youth in this and future generations rests on this Court adhering to the facts, the Constitution and its own modern precedent.”

The Tennessee law in question restricts the use of puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery for minors, though the surgery ban is not part of the Supreme Court case. Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti expressed his commitment to defending the law, saying, “I look forward to finishing the fight at the United States Supreme Court. This case will bring much-needed clarity to whether the Constitution contains special protections for gender identity.”

Over 20 states have enacted similar bans, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ rights think tank. The Supreme Court’s ruling will have significant implications for these states.

Major medical organizations support gender-affirming treatments as effective for treating gender dysphoria, a condition where an individual’s gender identity conflicts with their assigned gender at birth.

Plaintiffs, including transgender teens and their families, argue that the law violates the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal application of the law. They claim the law unfairly restricts medical treatments for transgender individuals that are available to others and infringes on parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for their children.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar urged the court to address the issue, highlighting the wave of similar bans nationwide that prevent transgender adolescents from obtaining necessary medical care.

Previously, a federal judge blocked Tennessee’s ban on puberty blockers and hormone therapy but upheld the ban on surgeries, citing lack of standing. The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled in favor of the states, with Judge Jeffrey Sutton noting the evolving nature of gender dysphoria treatments and the role of elected officials in deciding such matters.

The plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court. Historically, the court has largely avoided disputes involving transgender students, including cases about bathroom usage and participation in sports.

In 2020, the court made a landmark decision by ruling that federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination in employment also protect transgender and gay individuals, a decision authored by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch that surprised many.

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear this significant case, its decision will likely have a profound impact on the rights and healthcare of transgender minors across the United States.

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