News (USA)

Judge blocks Texas AG’s demand for info on families of trans kids

Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to supporters as he supports Tom Glass in his campaign for Texas State Representative on Jan. 24, 2024.
Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to supporters as he supports Tom Glass in his campaign for Texas State Representative on Jan. 24, 2024. Photo: Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

With a previous temporary restraining order set to expire on Friday, a Texas judge has granted a temporary injunction blocking Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s demand that PFLAG National turn over records related to the families of transgender young people in the state seeking gender-affirming care.

In February, Paxton’s office requested documents related to statements made by PFLAG CEO Brian Bond in a sworn affidavit filed as part of the organization’s ongoing legal challenge of S.B. 14, the 2023 Texas law banning gender-affirming care for minors.

In its civil investigation demand, dated February 5, the AG’s office requested PFLAG turn over all documents and communications related to the “contingency plans” and “alternative avenues” to maintain gender-affirming care of families, which Bond mentioned in his July affidavit. Paxton also demanded all “recommendations, referrals, and/or lists of pediatric and/or adolescent ‘health care providers’… in Texas, that PFLAG (or any of its representatives) has created, maintained, received, or distributed since March 8, 2023,” along with communications to or from gender-affirming care providers Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital, telehealth provider QMed, QueerDoc, and Plume Health.

Paxton’s office later told the Washington Post that it is investigating whether medical providers are “committing insurance fraud as part of a scheme to evade the law, such as by prescribing hormones for a pretextual medical diagnosis unrelated to gender transition,” a claim attorneys for the state reiterated in court on Monday, according to KXAN.

PFLAG sued, stating in its legal filing earlier this month that Paxton’s demands violate its members’ “rights to freedom of petition, speech, and assembly and to be free from unjustified searches and seizures, are contrary to the OGA’s [the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General’s] authority under the DTPA, and impermissibly seek to evade the protections afforded to PFLAG as a civil litigant.”

A Texas judge agreed with the group and issued a temporary restraining order blocking Paxton’s civil investigation demand.

Attorneys for PFLAG and the state were back in court on Monday, where the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization argued that Paxton’s demands are “retaliation” for its two ongoing lawsuits challenging Texas’s restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors. As KXAN reports, lawyers for the AG’s office said its demands were not “end-runs” to get information for the two cases and said they would modify the civil investigation demands to indicate they do not want PFLAG membership information.

PFLAG National’s attorneys, however, said that the demands have had a “chilling effect,” with the organization’s executive vice president, Aaron Ridings, testifying that the nonprofit has already lost volunteers in Texas and seen a drop in attendance at in-person support group meetings statewide. “They are concerned about being on the attorney general’s radar,” Ridings said.

Judge Amy Clark Meachum granted a temporary injunction, preventing Paxton’s office from enforcing its demands as the case moves forward.

“Plaintiff states a valid cause of action against the OAG and Attorney General Paxton and have a probable right to the declaratory and permanent injunctive relief they seek,” Meachum wrote in her decision. Meachum added that “there is a substantial likelihood that [PFLAG] will prevail after a trial on the merits.”

“It clearly appears to the Court that unless the Defendants are immediately restrained from enforcing the DTPA against PFLAG or otherwise requiring PFLAG to provide the information and documents listed in the CID and Notice of Demand for Sworn Written Statement, immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to PFLAG and its members,” she wrote, setting a trial date for June 10.

“PFLAG families in Texas gained further protection today, when the court reaffirmed that the Attorney General can’t two-step around the law with an outrageous demand for private information,” PFLAG National CEO Bond said in a press release Monday. “Trans youth and their loved ones deserve better, and we will continue to fight to protect our families, because loving your LGBTQ+ kid is always the right thing to do.”

Karen Loewy, senior counsel and director of constitutional law practice at Lambda Legal, which is representing PFLAG along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Texas, the Transgender Law Center, and the law firm of Arnold and Porter, however, noted that the OAG’s demand continues to loom for the families of trans kids in the state.

“The court appreciated the burden that the threat of the attorney general’s demands imposed on PFLAG National and its Texas members and quite properly concluded they warranted protection as we pursue our challenge in court,” Loewy said.

Following Monday’s hearing, Transgender Law Center director Lynley Egyes reiterated Riding’s testimony about the impact Paxton’s demands have had on PFLAG members.

“People are scared to show up to meetings,” Egyes told KXAN. “People are scared to sign in and have their name in front of the Attorney General’s office, but luckily today we don’t have to worry about that, thankfully, with the temporary injunction that was granted.”

Don't forget to share:

Good News is your section for queer joy! Subscribe to our newsletter to get the most positive and fun stories from the site delivered to your inbox every weekend. Send us your suggestions for uplifiting and inspiring stories.

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated