Supreme Court will take up state bans on gender-affirming care for minors

The case before the high court involves a law in Tennessee that restricts puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender minors.
Supreme Court
Posted at 8:19 AM, Jun 24, 2024

The Supreme Court on Monday jumped into the fight over transgender rights, agreeing to hear an appeal from the Biden administration seeking to block state bans on gender-affirming care.

The justices’ action comes as Republican-led states have enacted a variety of restrictions on health care for transgender people, school sports participation, bathroom usage and drag shows. The administration and Democratic-led states have extended protections for transgender people, including a new federal regulation that seeks to protect transgender students.

The case before the high court involves a law in Tennessee that restricts puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender minors. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati allowed laws in Tennessee and Kentucky to take effect after they had been blocked by lower courts. (The high court did not act on a separate appeal from Kentucky.)

“Without this Court’s prompt intervention, transgender youth and their families will remain in limbo, uncertain of whether and where they can access needed medical care,” lawyers for the transgender teens in Tennessee told the justices.

Actor Elliot Page, the Oscar-nominated star of “Juno,” “Inception” and “The Umbrella Academy,” was among 57 transgender people who joined a legal filing in support of Supreme Court review.

Arguments will take place in the fall.

Last week, South Carolina became the 25th state to adopt a law restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, even though such treatments have been available in the United States for more than a decade and are endorsed by major medical associations.

Most of the state restrictions face lawsuits. The justices had previously allowed Idaho to generally enforce its restrictions, after they had been blocked by lower courts.

At least 24 states have laws barring transgender women and girls from competing in certain women’s or girls' sports competitions. At least 11 states have adopted laws barring transgender girls and women from girls' and women’s bathrooms at public schools, and in some cases other government facilities.

The nation's highest court has only rarely taken up transgender issues. In 2020, the justices ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment.

In 2016, the court had agreed to take up the case of a transgender student, backed by the Obama administration, who was barred from using the boys' bathroom in his Virginia high school. But the court dropped the case after a directive advising schools to allow students to use the bathroom of their chosen gender, not biological birth, was scrapped in the early months of the Trump administration. The directive had been a key part of an appeals court ruling in favor of the student, Gavin Grimm.

In 2021, the justices declined to get involved in Grimm's case after the appeals court again ruled in his favor. At the time, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas noted they would have taken up the school board's appeal.

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