Quick Takes

Kentucky can continue enforcing ban on minors’ transgender medical care, U.S. appeals court says

By: - September 13, 2023 2:04 pm

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

Kentucky’s ban on transgender medical care for minors will remain in force under a ruling issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

The decision is a setback for seven anonymous Kentucky minors and their parents who had asked the appeals court to reinstate a preliminary injunction that briefly stopped enforcement of the ban. U.S. District Judge David Hale had issued the preliminary injunction in June.

Hale later stayed his own injunction based on the appeals court’s decision allowing enforcement of a similar law in Tennessee.

On Tuesday, Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton and Judge Amul Thapar denied a motion requested by the ACLU of Kentucky to lift Hale’s stay of his own injunction. 

The two judges ruled that the issues with Kentucky’s law are the same as in the case in which the court allowed the Tennessee law to be enforced.

Judge Helene N. White dissented, writing that unlike Tennessee’s law, the law in Kentucky “provides no grace period during which patients receiving care may continue treatment.” 

Lawyers for the Kentucky minors had asked that they be allowed to continue receiving puberty blockers and hormones while the case is argued on its merits. (The plaintiffs are not challenging the Kentucky law’s ban on gender-affirming surgeries for minors.)

The Tennessee law allows gender-affirming care “without alteration” through March 31, 2024, White wrote, while Kentucky’s law requires health care providers to immediately cease treatment or to begin systematically reducing use of the drug or hormone. Violations could cost providers their licenses. 

“It seems obvious that there is a tremendous difference between a statute like Tennessee’s that allows flexibility regarding treatment decisions and time to explore alternatives and one like Kentucky’s that forces doctors to either discontinue treatment immediately or risk losing their license if a stranger to the doctor-patient relationship second-guesses the doctor’s determination or documentation that interrupting treatment would harm the minor,” White wrote in her dissent.

The three-judge panel heard arguments on the motion Sept. 1.

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 https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help/, or by texting START to 678678. 

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