Judge Allows Oklahoma Ban on Transition Care for Minors to Take Effect

The News

A federal judge in Oklahoma denied a request on Thursday to temporarily block a state law banning gender transition care for those under 18. The law, which also makes it a felony crime for a medical professional to provide the care, goes into effect immediately.

The law was originally enacted in May, but the state attorney general agreed to delay enforcing the ban while the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction was ongoing.

Transgender rights activists protested outside the House chamber at the Oklahoma Capitol in February.Credit…Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Why It Matters: Providers could face steep punishments under the law.

The Republican-controlled State Legislature passed the ban in April, and Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, signed it into law on May 1.

Oklahoma’s law, like many similar bans in other states, prohibits all forms of gender transition medical treatment — including surgery, hormone therapy and puberty blockers — for young people.

The law also includes strict penalties for medical providers, such as a possible felony conviction. Doctors could also lose their license and be fined.

Under the law, transgender minors in the state already receiving such care must start weaning off their treatments before discontinuing them completely. But until now, the law hadn’t been enforced, thanks to an agreement the state attorney general had made in May with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma.

The ruling on the injunction ends the agreement, allowing the restrictions under the law to be enforced.

In response to the ruling, the office of the state attorney general said in a statement on Friday that it will continue to “fulfill its duty to defend” the ban.

In the lawsuit challenging the overall constitutionality of the ban, which was filed by five families of transgender minors in Oklahoma and a doctor, plaintiffs argued that the law would cause “severe and irreparable harm” to transgender minors and their families. They also argued that the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

But Judge John F. Heil III, in his ruling denying the preliminary injunction, said the law is “not an outright ban on gender-affirming care. Nor is it a bill that has the intent or effect of enforcing stereotypical gender norms or discriminating against those who do not conform to those norms.”

Instead, Judge Heil contended that the law only requires that minors wait until a certain age to receive transition care.

Background: The state has passed several laws on various aspects of life for transgender people.

Oklahoma’s bill restricting gender transition care isn’t the only one in the state that affects transgender young people.

Last year, the governor signed several bills that prohibited transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams and restricted transgender children from using bathrooms at school that align with their gender identity. The state also banned nonbinary gender markers on birth certificates.

These laws are part of a national wave of legislation restricting the rights of transgender minors that have been passed by Republican-controlled legislatures in the last few years. So far this year, at least 19 states have passed bans or restrictions on gender transition care for minors.

In more than half of the states that have passed such bans, court challenges have been filed. Over the summer, federal judges across the country issued a series of rulings temporarily blocking some of the laws from taking effect. But recently, some of those rulings have been reversed, creating even more uncertainty for transgender young people and their families.

What’s Next

The challenge to Oklahoma’s ban on gender transition care will continue to move through the legal system. On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement that it planned to appeal Thursday’s ruling.

“This is a devastating result for transgender youth and their families in Oklahoma and across the region,” the organization said. “We will continue our fight in defense of our clients and the constitutional rights of transgender people in Oklahoma and across the country.”

Maia Coleman contributed reporting.

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