A Texas court once again blocked the state from investigating parents of children receiving gender-affirming care for "child abuse" on Friday after officials were allowed to resume the inquiries last month.
The temporary restraining order comes after three families and PFLAG National, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, filed a new lawsuit this week against Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and its commissioner, Jaime Masters, in response to Abbott's Feb. 22 letter directing DFPS to conduct "thorough investigations" into trans youth getting gender-affirming care. In the days after Abbott's directive, DFPS initiated investigations into all three families, causing fear and anxiety for the children and their parents, the lawsuit states.
"It clearly appears to the Court that unless Commissioner Masters and DFPS are immediately enjoined from implementing and enforcing the new DFPS rule ... [the plaintiffs] will suffer immediate and irreparable injury," Travis County District Court Judge Jan Soifer wrote in the order granting the restraining order.
The court's ruling only applies to the plaintiffs in the case as well as more than 600 PFLAG members who live in Texas.
"That families will be protected from invasive, unnecessary, and unnerving investigations by DFPS simply for helping their transgender children thrive and be themselves is a very good thing,” Brian K. Bond, executive director of PFLAG National, said in a statement. "However, let’s be clear: These investigations into loving and affirming families shouldn’t be happening in the first place."
Abbott's directive came after the state's attorney general, Ken Paxton, issued an opinion deeming that "elective" gender-affirming treatments, such as mastectomies, puberty-blocking drugs, and sex reassignment surgery, could "constitute child abuse" under Texas law. But the letter was legally dubious and nonbinding, experts said.
Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state could resume the investigations after lower courts blocked it from doing so, though it agreed that the department was not bound by the governor's instructions. But the narrow ruling only stopped the state from investigating the plaintiff in that case and did not address the merits of their lawsuit, which is still pending.
Shortly after, parents of trans children who were not party to the first lawsuit were notified that DFPS had resumed investigating them for "child abuse."
Paul D. Castillo, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, which filed the new complaint Wednesday along with the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas, said in a statement that they were relieved that — at least for now — the threat of a child abuse investigation is no longer hanging over their heads.
"It is unconscionable that DFPS persists in causing more trauma and harm for these youth and these families," Castillo said. "We appreciate that the judge saw this activity clearly for what it was, and moved so rapidly to halt it."