Federal Government Issues New Guidance, Urges Impacted Families to File Federal Civil Rights Complaints
Blasting Texas leaders for their “cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents,” President Joe Biden on Wednesday called out Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for ordering child abuse investigators into the homes of otherwise-loving families who offer medically sound, gender-affirming health care.
“Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the Governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points,” Biden stated. “These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”
Biden’s public comments were accompanied by new guidance, issued with urgency by a government otherwise mired in responding to the days-old Russian war in Ukraine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services alert “putting the state of Texas on notice that their discriminatory actions put children’s lives at risk” extends and underscores federal protections to transgender children and their families in the Lone Star State.
“In the United States of America, we respect the rights and dignity of all families. Transgender children bring fulfillment to their parents, joy to their friends and are made in the image of God,” Biden said. “Affirming a transgender child’s identity is one of the best things a parent, teacher, or doctor can do to help keep children from harm, and parents who love and affirm their children should be applauded and supported, not threatened, investigated, or stigmatized.”
Last month — fighting for reelection and encouraged by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — Gov. Abbott ordered mandated reporters and state residents to report parents to the child abuse registry who they suspect are bringing children to doctors for treatment of gender dysphoria.
The not-uncommon condition results from a mismatch between a person’s sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. Safe and effective treatments include hormone therapy and delaying some effects of puberty, medically approved practices known to reduce depression and suicidality among trans and nonbinary youth. Licensed physicians who fail to comply with Abbott’s orders face criminal penalties.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of a family investigated under the governor’s orders is under review in Travis County. The plaintiffs, Family Doe, include a mother who is herself a CPS investigator in Texas, her 16-year-old daughter and the teen’s psychologist. A judge has granted a temporary restraining order on the child welfare agency’s actions in that family’s case. But a ruling on whether a temporary halt to the governor’s orders will be applied more broadly by the courts is not expected until March 11.
On Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services officials released two documents in concert with the White House statement. They focus on protections for LGTBQ children and families who participate in programs that receive federal funding, including public child welfare systems.
The Office of Civil Rights encouraged families who believe they have been discriminated against by a program that receives federal funding to file a complaint with the department. And health care providers who believe they’ve been unlawfully restricted from providing appropriate medical care to their patients have the right to file a federal civil rights complaint.
In its memo, the Office of Civil Rights stated that federally funded entities preventing people from accessing medically necessary care — including gender-affirming care — is “likely a violation” of federal law.
The statement also pointed to health privacy laws and clarified that federal law prohibits the disclosure of gender-affirming care. The lawsuit filed this week by the Texas family being investigated under Abbott’s new directive stated that child protection workers want them to turn over their daughter’s medical records.
The other announcement released Wednesday — this one from the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees state child welfare programs — offers guidance on how to best serve LGBTQ youth.
The memo states that agencies receiving money through the Title IV-E funding stream for child welfare services must comply with non-discriminatory department rules attached to all federal laws. It further clarifies that several existing federal laws protect LGBTQ youth from discrimination, including those receiving foster care services.
Federal officials stand in agreement with “all leading national medical and pediatric associations,” they stated, medical experts who confirm that gender-affirming care is “in the best interest” of transgender children and youth.
“These announcements make clear that rather than weaponizing child protective services against loving families, child welfare agencies should instead expand access to gender-affirming care for transgender children,” Biden stated.
The president ended his statement Wednesday with a message to the nation.
“As I told transgender Americans in my State of the Union Address yesterday evening, “I’ll always have your back as your President so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential,” he said. “Jill and I are standing with the incredibly brave transgender children, their parents, and families throughout Texas and around the country, and we will continue to fight for a future where all children can thrive.”