Challenge to Kentucky’s anti-trans law filed in federal court

Suit seeks to block ban on gender-affirming care for minors

By: - May 3, 2023 5:03 pm

Protesters rallied at the foot of the House steps March 2 against anti-trans legislation. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius are suing to block part of a law they’ve called the worst anti-trans bill in the United States. 

This suit comes more than a month after the legislature passed controversial Senate Bill 150, which bans gender-affirming care for minors, allows teachers to misgender trans kids, regulates which bathrooms kids can use and limits the sex education students can receive.

“Under the Constitution, trans youth in Kentucky have the right to medically necessary care,” Corey Shapiro, ACLU of Kentucky’s legal director, said.

The lawsuit, he said, is “to protect against this imminent threat to their well-being and make certain they can thrive by continuing to receive medical care.” 

Attorney General Daniel Cameron issued a statement promising to “intervene to defend this law and help keep Kentucky’s kids safe.” Cameron also seeks to be Kentucky’s next governor.

Suit takes issue with ‘dangerous law.’

A protester raises a fist beside a large transgender pride flag at the Kentucky State Capitol.
(Kentucky Lantern photo by Sarah Ladd)

ACLU lawyers specifically take issue with Section Four of Senate Bill 150, which prohibits health care providers from prescribing puberty blockers or hormones, performing surgeries like phalloplasty and vaginoplasty or hysterectomies and vasectomies on minors. Essentially, it bans gender-affirming care for trans youth. There is an exception clause for people born intersex. 

“Parents, not the government, should make medical decisions for their children,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said in a statement. “This is a dangerous law that intrudes on family privacy and prevents doctors from doing their job.” 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit  are seven minors and their parents identified only as John Doe or Jane Doe. The suit argues their rights to privacy are threatened by the ban, which will go into effect June 29.

A person’s transgender identity or gender dysphoria diagnosis, the suit states, is information of a “highly sensitive and personal nature.”

Rebecca Blankenship, Kentucky’s first openly trans elected official and the executive director of Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, said in a statement that “We strongly support all efforts to protect Kentucky’s kids, especially Kentucky’s most vulnerable: LGBTQ kids.”

Ban Conversion Therapy is working on a separate lawsuit.

The lawsuit says in part:

The Ban thus prohibits well-established treatments for gender dysphoria in transgender adolescents, including puberty delaying treatment and hormone therapy (testosterone for transgender boys, and estrogen and testosterone suppressants for transgender girls), because these medications are provided for the purpose of “validat[ing] a minor’s” gender identity. The Ban however would permit medical providers to prescribe and administer the same medications for any other purpose to non-transgender patients. 

These medications are proven safe and effective and are commonly used to treat adolescents not only for gender dysphoria, but for a variety of other conditions. 

For instance, puberty delaying medication is commonly used to treat central precocious puberty. Central precocious puberty is the premature initiation of puberty by the central nervous system—before 8 years of age in people designated female at birth and before 9 years of age in people designated male. When untreated, central precocious puberty can lead to the impairment of final adult height as well as antisocial behavior and lower academic achievement. The Ban permits puberty delaying treatment for central precocious puberty because it is not provided for purposes of “validat[ing] a minor’s” gender identity.

Likewise, the Ban prohibits hormone therapy when the treatment is used to treat transgender adolescents with gender dysphoria but allows the same hormone therapy when prescribed to non-transgender patients.

For example, boys with delayed puberty may be prescribed testosterone if they have not begun puberty by 14 years of age. Without testosterone, for most of these patients, puberty would eventually initiate naturally. However, testosterone is prescribed to avoid some of the social stigma that comes from undergoing puberty later than one’s peers and failing to develop the secondary sex characteristics consistent with their gender at the same time as their peers.

Likewise, girls with primary ovarian insufficiency, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (delayed puberty due to lack of estrogen caused by a problem with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus), or Turner’s Syndrome (a chromosomal condition that can cause a failure of ovaries to develop) may be treated with estrogen. Moreover, girls with polycystic ovarian syndrome (a condition that can cause increased testosterone and, as a result, symptoms including facial hair) may be treated with testosterone suppressants.In each of these circumstances, as well as when prescribing these medications to treat gender dysphoria, doctors advise patients and their parents about the risks and benefits of treatment and tailor recommendations to the individual patient’s needs. For adolescents, parents must consent to treatment and the minor patient must give their assent.


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, COVID-19 and more.