The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has already started investigating parents of children receiving gender-affirming care for "child abuse," according to a new lawsuit.
Gov. Greg Abbott instructed the agency to begin such investigations via letter on Feb. 22, which critics have described as a fearmongering tactic to keep young people from getting the services they need. Within days, at least one investigation began — against a DFPS employee who is the mother of a 16-year-old transgender child identified as Mary Doe, according to a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
The suit was filed Tuesday against Abbott, DFPS, and its commissioner, Jaime Masters. A DFPS representative told BuzzFeed News that they are aware of the lawsuit, but they have no comment.
According to the lawsuit's complaint, the DFPS employee, identified only as Jane Doe, was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 23, the day after Abbott's letter. On Feb. 25, an investigator showed up at the house where she lives with her child, who the suit said has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is receiving "medically necessary care," including puberty blockers and hormone therapy.
The complaint describes the investigation as unconstitutional and added that it has only created a new form of possible child abuse by potentially separating a family.
Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, told BuzzFeed News that the ACLU has heard from hundreds of parents of trans children who don't know if they can safely remain in Texas. About half a dozen parents have said they are under investigation or "concerned about reports," he said. In Jane Doe's case, Strangio said the investigation was initiated based "exclusively on the fact" that the transgender child is being treated by a doctor for gender dysphoria.
"Given the acceleration of that particular investigation, we knew that we had to get into court immediately," he said.
He added that he believes Abbott's anti-trans stance was motivated by the Republican primary election he is facing Tuesday.
"This is a partisan, politically motivated agenda leading up to a primary election to posture and appeal to a base largely outside of Texas, and the human cost and the toll is unimaginable and it's been [carried] by young people who are just trying to survive," Strangio said.
Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Megan Mooney, a clinical psychologist who treats transgender patients and who is a mandated reporter of child abuse under Texas law, is also listed as a plaintiff. The complaint says that she has been put in an impossible situation because not reporting parents who seek gender-affirming care for their children could lead to her own civil and criminal penalties. But if she does report them, the complaint adds, she would violate professional standards of ethics and cause harm and trauma to her patients.
Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, previously told BuzzFeed News that she was confident Abbott's letter would not be enforceable in the courts. Shelby Chestnut, director of policy and programs at the Transgender Law Center, also said that Abbott's directive isn't legally binding and that the situation is still unfolding.