Kentucky ACLU appeals to U.S. high court for transgender minors’ medical care

Here’s what the petition says

By: - November 3, 2023 3:36 pm

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court, the Guardian or Authority of Law, created by sculptor James Earle Fraser.(Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

The Trevor Project, which aims to end suicide among LGBTQ+ youth, also has trained counselors available around the clock. Reach them at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at, or by texting START to 678678. 

The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday filed a petition for a certiorari asking the United States Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court’s decision allowing Kentucky to enforce its  ban on gender affirming medical care for transgender minors. 

The ACLU filed on behalf of seven transgender children and families alongside the National Center for Lesbian Rights. 

The filing came two days after the ACLU announced its next legal move in a case challenging Kentucky law Senate Bill 150

The children and their parents won a favorable ruling at the district court level in June only to have it reversed by a divided 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. 

The ACLU of Kentucky is appealing to the higher court alongside Tennessee, where a similar case is ongoing. Tennessee’s case has provided precedent for Kentucky’s over the past months. The two want to be “the first challenge to transgender healthcare restrictions before the Supreme Court,” ACLU said in a Wednesday statement. 

Kentucky’s ban on treatments like hormones is part of Senate Bill 150, which also bans surgeries like phalloplasty, vaginoplasty or hysterectomies and vasectomies on transgender children. 

Neither the ACLU nor Kentucky LGBTQ+ organizations have taken issue with that part of the law, though. 

What does the petition ask of SCOTUS? 

The ACLU’s petition asks the Supreme Court to consider whether SB150 “burdens parents’ right to direct the medical treatment of their children.” 

It also asks the court to consider if the law “classifies on the basis of sex and transgender status,” which is an argument lawyers made before an appeals court, saying that basing any treatment access on the basis of sex is inherently discriminatory. 

That panel of judges ultimately sided against that argument

“Even if a transgender adolescent, their parents, and their doctor all agree that the treatment is vital to the adolescent’s health and well-being, and even if the treatment represents the accepted standard of care among medical authorities, the Treatment Ban makes it illegal,” lawyers wrote in their petition. 

Lawyers also assert that the ban will have a negative mental health effect on LGBTQ+ youth. 

“This extraordinary law puts young people in Kentucky at well-documented risks of depression, anxiety, and in some cases, suicidality,” ACLU lawyers assert. “It usurps parents’ traditional authority over important decisions regarding their children’s health. It singles out transgender minors, a historically powerless, misunderstood, and vulnerable group.” 

Politicians in support of the ban have regularly made the argument that hormone therapy is experimental and irreversible. 

“Contrary to the Sixth Circuit’s reasoning, petitioners are not asserting a fundamental right to experimental drugs — which, as the district court’s findings confirm, are not at issue here,” the petition states. “Petitioners seek treatments for their children that, for decades, have been recognized as safe and effective by medical specialists and the nation’s leading medical and mental health organizations.” 

Finally, lawyers argue the lawmakers who passed SB150 did so from a place of personal bias. 

“Kentucky’s elected lawmakers simply oppose these treatments,” they wrote, “based on their own views about how gender-nonconforming minors should lead their lives.” 

According to United States Courts, the Supreme Court is asked to review thousands of cases annually through writs of certiorari, but only decides to take up fewer than 200. 

“The Court usually is not under any obligation to hear these cases, and it usually only does so if the case could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal Circuit courts, and/or could have precedential value,” says. 

In Kentucky’s petition, lawyers argue there is national precedent potential. In 2023, lawmakers around the country introduced more than 500 bills that the ACLU classified as “anti-LGBTQ.” 

Petition by seven Kentucky minors and their parents to U.S. Supreme Court

Doe v. Kentucky - Cert Petition


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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, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.