Federal judge blocks much of Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge issued an order Friday preventing Indiana’s ban on puberty blockers and hormones for transgender minors from taking effect as scheduled on July 1.

The Indiana American Civil Liberties Union has sought the temporary injunction in its legal challenge to the Republican-backed law, which was signed into law this spring as part of a nationwide push by GOP-led legislatures to restrict LGBTQ+ rights.

U.S. District Court Judge James Patrick Hanlon’s order will allow the law’s ban on gender-affirming surgeries to take effect. Hanlon’s order also blocks provisions that would bar Indiana doctors from communicating with out-of-state physicians about gender-affirming care for their patients under 18.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit hours after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law on April 5. The challenge, on behalf of four young people undergoing transgender treatment and an Indiana doctor who provides such care, argued that the ban would violate the equal protection guarantees of the US Constitution. and violated the right of parents to decide on the medical treatment of their children.

Indiana’s Republican-dominated legislature approved the ban after contentious hearings that included mostly testimony from vocal opponents, with many saying gender-affirming care reduced the risk of depression and suicide among transgender youth.

ACLU leaders hailed the decision of Hanlon, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump, as a victory in the fight “to uphold the right of all trans people to be themselves, without discrimination.” .

“We will not rest until this unconstitutional law is permanently struck down,” Ken Falk, chief legal officer for the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement.

At least 20 GOP-led states have now enacted laws restricting or banning such medical treatments for transgender minors after the governor of Missouri signed that state’s bill into law last week. Lawsuits have been filed in several states against transgender treatment bans. Federal judges have also blocked enforcement in Alabama and Arkansas, and Oklahoma has agreed not to enforce its ban while opponents seek a temporary court order blocking it.

The Indiana bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Joanna King of Middlebury, said during the ban debate that it would “protect our children from irreversible, harmful and life-altering procedures.”

The Indiana attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hanlon’s decision and whether he would attempt to appeal the injunction until July 1.

A senior state attorney told Hanlon during a court hearing Wednesday that the risks of gender-affirming treatments during puberty, such as future fertility, bone strength, brain development and possible reversibility, had not been sufficiently studied by scientists.

Such factors place it within the purview of the Legislature to decide “we don’t want our children to be part of this grand experiment,” Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said.

Although guidelines from leading gender-affirming medical care authorities already state that surgery should generally be reserved for adults, with the exception of older adolescents who meet certain criteria, Indiana law calls for a an immediate ban on gender-affirming surgeries.

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