ACLU Sues Texas Over Gov. Greg Abbott's Directive to Investigate Trans Kids' Families

The ACLU sued Texas over a recent anti-trans directive from gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday.
The ACLU sued Texas over a recent anti-trans directive from gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday. Getty Images
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to stop Texas from investigating the families who seek gender-affirming treatment for their transgender children.

In partnership with Lambda Legal, the ACLU filed a petition in a Travis County state court this week requesting that Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services (otherwise known as child protective services) decline to investigate cases stemming from families who seek gender-affirming treatment for their kids who identify as transgender. The suit names Gov. Greg Abbott, DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS as defendants.

“The Governor has circumvented the will of the legislature and, in so doing, he and the Commissioner have run afoul of numerous Constitutional and statutory limits on their power,” the ACLU stated in court documents filed Tuesday.

Last week, Abbott issued a directive to DFPS instructing them to investigate cases of gender-affirming treatment for minors as child abuse. The directive cited a legal opinion penned by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton earlier in February, which stated outright that application of any form of gender-affirming treatment constituted child abuse under Texas law.

The fallout from Abbott’s order was immediate. Harris County attorney Christian Menefee denounced the governor’s directive the same day, stating that his office (which directs DFPS’s investigations of alleged child abuse), would not be pursuing child abuse investigations based on reports or gender affirmation treatment.

“I’m the county attorney, chief lawyer for the largest county in Texas, and a large part of our office is the CPS group," Menefee told the Observer. "My position is I have prosecutorial discretion, and we’re not going to rely on some nonsense legal opinion from the AG’s office and start trying to infringe on folks’ parental rights."

Menefee explained that Paxton’s legal opinion is based on “an absurd misreading of the statutes” in Texas law that are “intended to capture instances of physical abuse to children,” not address elective medical procedures for transgender youth.

Menefee acknowledged that despite his own public stance against the directive and the legal toothlessness of Paxton’s opinion, the governor and AG’s actions pose a threat to transgender youth and their families in Texas.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal focused on the safety of transgender youth said in court filings that “the Governor’s, Attorney General’s, and Commissioner’s actions threaten to endanger the health and wellbeing of transgender youth in Texas by depriving them of medically necessary care, while communicating that transgender people and their families are not welcome in Texas.”

Neither the governor’s nor the attorney general's offices responded to requests for comment.
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Michael Murney is a staff writer at the Dallas Observer and a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His reporting has appeared in Chicago’s South Side Weekly and the Chicago Reader.
Contact: Michael Murney