Federal appeals court rules Kentucky can force trans kids to detransition

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A federal appeals court has ruled that Kentucky can continue to enforce a gender-affirming care ban that also requires trans youth already receiving this care to detransition.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in the decision that “The people of Kentucky enacted the ban through their legislature” and “that body–not the officials who disagree with the ban–set the Commonwealth’s policies.”

The lawsuit, Doe v. Thornbury, challenged S.B. 150, a sweeping anti-trans bill that passed into law over the veto of Gov. Andy Beshear (D) in March. It is one of the most extreme among several laws enacted recently in Republican-dominated legislatures. 

In addition to banning gender-affirming care for trans youth, the bill denies use of bathrooms aligning with gender identity in schools, conflates and excludes LGBTQ+-related topics and information on sexually transmitted diseases from sex education, and prohibits school staff and students from properly addressing trans minors. The lawsuit, however, focused solely on the provision banning gender-affirming care.

In a statement earlier this summer, the ACLU called the new law an egregious government overreach into families’ personal decision-making.

“These are merely political attacks from groups with a fundamental opposition to transgender people being able to live openly, freely, and affirmed as who they really are,” Shapiro said. “Banning medically necessary care for trans youth is not supported by science or reputable major medical organizations.”

But Judge Sutton disagreed. In a similar decision allowing a gender-affirming care ban in Tennessee to take effect, Sutton reportedly wrote that the support for gender-affirming care by major medical organizations was “surely relevant” but “not dispositive.”

In Gov. Beshear’s veto statement of the bill, he said it “strips freedom from parents to make personal family decisions” and that it would “cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.” He also said that the bill would turn teachers into “investigators” who would pry into students’ lives.

After the legislature overrode the veto, ACLU-KY’s executive director Amber Duke blasted the body for rushing the law through “in a deliberately secretive process at the 11th hour.”

 “Trans Kentuckians, medical and mental health professionals, and accredited professional associations pleaded with lawmakers to listen to the experts, not harmful rhetoric based in fear and hate. Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the general assembly passed the bill in a matter of hours.”

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