LGBTQ Agenda: Texas judge issues injunction against state family agency

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday July 12, 2022
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Texas Judge Amy Clark Meachum has issued a partial injunction against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Texas Judge Amy Clark Meachum has issued a partial injunction against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Photo: Courtesy Facebook

A judge in Texas has issued yet another injunction against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, at least temporarily halting the agency's efforts to investigate two families of transgender children for alleged child abuse.

The injunction, handed down July 8 by Judge Amy Clark Meachum of Travis County District Court, where the state's capital, Austin, is located, prohibits DFPS from carrying out investigations of the families "based solely on allegations that they are providing gender-affirming care to their adolescents, or taking any action in open investigations other than to close them so long as DFPS can do so without making further contact with the families," according to a news release from Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is defending the families. The injunction only applies to Mirabel Voe and her son Antonio, and Wanda Roe and her son Tommy, the release stated.

In May, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that upheld part of an appeals court order preventing DFPS from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent transgender children with medically necessary health care, Lambda Legal stated at the time.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Meachum delayed a decision on whether an injunction could be applied more generally toward additional child abuse investigations "launched into all families who are members" of PFLAG, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization. The court is still considering whether to apply an injunction to protect another family, Adam and Amber Briggle and their son, of Denton, north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex; and members of Texas PFLAG with transgender kids.

The ruling was issued in the lawsuit PFLAG v. Abbott, filed by an extensive team including Lambda Legal; the American Civil Liberties Union Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project; the ACLU Women's Rights Project; the ACLU of Texas; and the law firm of Baker Botts LLP.

"We are gratified that the court reiterated that the DFPS rule is unlawful and changed the status quo for Texas transgender youth and their families," the legal team said in a statement issued shortly after the injunction was handed down. "The court recognized yet again that being subjected to an unlawful and unwarranted investigation causes irreparable harm for these families who are doing nothing more than caring for and affirming their children and seeking the best course of care for them in consultation with their medical providers."

Essentially, the court found that DFPS changed the rules for transgender kids and their families, labeling gender-affirming care as abuse and pursuing investigations without any legal basis to do so.

"The DFPS rule was adopted without following the necessary procedures under the [Administrative Procedure Act]" the injunction reads, "is contrary to DFPS's enabling statute, is beyond the authority provided to the commissioner and DFPS, and is otherwise contrary to law, as alleged in plaintiffs' petition."

It's a violation of the idea of equal treatment under the law, said Shelly Skeen, a lesbian and senior attorney with Lambda Legal in Dallas, in a phone call with the Bay Area Reporter.

"You are targeting one subset of the population to the exclusion of other parts of the population and you don't have a compelling reason to do so," she said. Notwithstanding Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, she added, there's a long tradition in the U.S. of parents determining for themselves how to raise their kids. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in Dobbs, repealed the constitutional right to abortion that was established nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

Ultimately, said Skeen, the actions of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have been about firing up their base as both men are Republicans and face reelection in November.

Leslie McMurray, transgender education and advocacy associate for the Resource Center, which provides LGBTQ-focused programs and assistance in Dallas, agreed.

"It's a wedge issue," she said in a telephone call with the B.A.R.

Abbott's supporters are appealing to a population that is probably not as well versed in LGBTQ issues as Californians, said McMurray, a transgender woman, and who are easily worked up by falsely accusing trans allies of supporting forced genital mutilation.

"You know what?" asked McMurray. "I agree with that. I can get behind that 100%. We don't have a slogan to rebut that."

It would take 17 paragraphs to do so, she added.

Republicans have managed to trap trans people and their allies by placing them in between a rock and a hard place, McMurray said. By forcing mandated reporters such as therapists and doctors to report gender-affirming care - which Paxton and Abbott classify as child abuse - they find themselves either at risk of alienating their patients or losing their licenses, as a result.

"It's intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible," said McMurray. These orders are made by politicians "on the backs of young kids in order to keep their jobs."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact Eric Burkett at e.burkett@ebar.com

The column will be off a couple of weeks and return August 2.

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