Texas’ top appeals court lifted a statewide injunction against Governor
Abbott in February directed state child welfare officials in a letter to investigate gender care for minors as potential child abuse. In Friday’s ruling, the
The decision breathes new life into Abbott’s efforts by lifting the injunction but articulates the limits on his power.
“Unlike some executive orders of the governor that are afforded binding legal effect by statute, the governor’s letter cites no legal authority that would empower the governor to bind state agencies with the instruction contained in the letter’s final sentence,” the court wrote, referring to an assertion by Abbott that state agencies must adhere to an opinion issued by Texas Attorney General
Law Without Legislation
A lower court issued the
The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature has twice declined to expand the statutory definition of child abuse to include medical treatments for children and teens diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
A trial in the lower court was set for July 11. Friday’s appeals court ruling, which strikes down the trial judge’s statewide injunction because it involved nonparties who are not before the court, means Abbott’s letter may be enforced during the litigation.
The Republican governor’s efforts have set off a firestorm, as conservatives across the country take up transgender issues as a political wedge in an election year. Critics say Texas is setting the stage for families to be torn apart for treating children with gender dysphoria and that licensed professionals such as teachers, doctors and nurses were at risk of failing to report such treatment.
Interfering With Parents
In its decision Friday, the high court set limits on the Department of Family and Protective Services as well.
“DFPS’s preliminary authority to investigate allegations does not entail the ultimate authority to interfere with parents’ decisions about their children, decisions which enjoy some measure of constitutional protection whether the government agrees with them or not,” the court wrote.
“The Texas Supreme Court made clear that the attorney general and governor do not have the authority to order DFPS to take any action against families that support their children by providing them with the highest standards of medical care,” the group said in a statement.
Neither Abbott’s nor Paxton’s press office responded immediately to messages seeking comment on the decision.
‘Injury to a Child’
Three of the justices said the trial judge shouldn’t have blocked DFPS from probing any allegedly unnecessary medical treatments of transgender youth, because people differ strongly on the topic.
“The plaintiffs, their experts, and their supporting amici are firmly convinced that the disputed treatments are fully reversible and completely justified,” Justice
Blacklock said “an injunction preemptively prohibiting the executive branch from even investigating the possibility that injury to a child may result from the disputed treatments is likely beyond the proper scope of the judicial power.”
The case is In re Greg Abbott in His Official Capacity as Governor of the State of Texas, 22-0229, Supreme Court of Texas (Austin).
(Adds detail on Abbott’s letter in first section, context on Texas legislation in second, limits on child welfare officials in third and dissent from court’s majority in fourth.)
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