Federal Court Allows Oklahoma to Enforce Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Minors

Young boy sees himself as a girl. Image by Midjourney.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled last Thursday that the state of Oklahoma can enforce a law that criminalizes gender-affirming care for transgender minors while the lawsuit is being heard.

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The order was made public on Friday, following a request for a preliminary injunction by five families with transgender children and a healthcare provider, which the court subsequently declined.

Senate Bill 613, signed into law by Republican Governor Kevin Stitt on May 1, prohibits healthcare professionals from providing hormones, puberty blockers, and surgeries to individuals under 18 for gender transition.

The law allows young people already receiving hormones or puberty blockers six months to cease treatment.

Violations of the law can result in severe penalties, including felony charges, license revocation, and civil lawsuits, which a parent or guardian can initiate.

In his written statement, Judge John F. Heil III emphasized that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate a likelihood of success in proving that the law infringes upon the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Heil noted that the law permits gender-affirming care at a later age and that age-based distinctions are constitutionally permissible.

He further highlighted a recent appellate court ruling that states have a legitimate interest in regulating such care and that legislative bodies, not courts, should be the forum for related debates.

“This an area in which medical and policy debate is unfolding and the Oklahoma Legislature can rationally take the side of caution before permitting irreversible medical treatments of its children,” Heil wrote.

The legal representatives of the plaintiffs have expressed their intent to appeal.

A joint statement from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Oklahoma, and the law firm Jenner & Block conveyed their disappointment: “This is a devastating result for transgender youth and their families in Oklahoma and across the region. Denying transgender youth equality before the law and needlessly withholding the necessary medical care their families and their doctors know is right for them has caused and will continue to cause serious harm.”

The case, titled Poe v. Drummond, with Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond being the latter party, is part of a broader national debate and legal battle over transgender rights and healthcare.

Currently, 21 states ban all or most gender-affirming care for trans youth. While several federal trial courts have temporarily blocked these bans with preliminary injunctions, some appeals courts have lifted them, allowing states like Kentucky and Tennessee to enforce their bans while lawsuits proceed.

In contrast, federal district courts in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Indiana have issued injunctions against similar bans, with the court in Arkansas even striking down the state’s law.

However, the legal battles continue as appeals and further legal actions are underway in various states.

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