Texas court limits Abbott’s investigations into families of trans youth

Texas School Shooting
Texas Governor Greg Abbott encountered another setback in his campaign to target families of trans youth.
Associated Press/Dario Lopez-Mills

A Texas court on June 10 issued a temporary restraining order barring the state from investigating certain families of trans kids, marking the latest development in an ongoing legal battle stemming from a directive issued by Governor Greg Abbott earlier this year.

Travis County District Court temporarily barred the state from moving ahead with investigating three families and members of PFLAG — an advocacy group supporting families of LGBTQ individuals — following a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Texas, and the law firm Baker Botts LLP, which represents PFLAG National.

Abbott’s directive, which was handed down in February, falsely described gender-affirming care for trans youth as a form child abuse and told the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to launch investigations into any families with transgender children receiving gender-affirming care. The governor issued his order after State Attorney General Ken Paxton had similarly labeled gender-affirming care for trans youth as a form of child abuse.

The governor’s directive immediately sparked legal resistance, leading to a series of court decisions and lawsuits over issues like the governor’s power to issue such a directive and the legal scope of the investigations. The latest update means families of trans youth can inform state officials of their PFLAG membership if they are contacted by DFPS, according to Lambda Legal.

“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, the executive director of PFLAG National, said in a written statement. “However, let’s be clear: These investigations into loving and affirming families shouldn’t be happening in the first place. PFLAG National and our chapters throughout Texas remain committed to ensuring every transgender Texan is safe, empowered, and can thrive.”

The lawsuit detailed the harrowing impact of Abbott’s order on trans youth in the state. One 16-year-old transgender boy whose family is a member of PFLAG was so distraught by the order that he suffered from a suicidal crisis on the same day it was issued. He was hospitalized at an outpatient psychiatric facility, where he experienced yet another nightmare: Hospital officials there cited Abbott’s directive and told the teen’s family that they could be investigated for “child abuse” — even though he and his family had followed the directions provided to them by medical doctors.

Less than a week after he was released from the hospital, a DFPS investigator visited the family’s home and told his mother that she was an “alleged perpetrator” of child abuse. The family members sought out legal counsel, but DFPS has continued to hound the family for medical records and the so-called investigation is ongoing, according to the suit.

“We are relieved that — at least for now — the threat of a child abuse investigation is no longer hanging over the heads of PFLAG families here in Texas,” said Paul D. Castillo (he/him), Lambda Legal senior counsel. “When we learned that DFPS had restarted investigations, when the Texas Supreme Court made it clear neither the governor nor the attorney general had the authority to compel such investigations, we knew we needed to move quickly to shore up support and protection for those parents who are working to provide love, support, and safety for their kids. It is unconscionable that DFPS persists in causing more trauma and harm for these youth and these families. We appreciate that the judge saw this activity clearly for what it was, and moved so rapidly to halt it.”