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Trans teens' families ask Supreme Court to protect gender affirming care in Tennessee


Nearly half of U.S. states have passed legislation banning gender-affirming care for transgender teens. Courts have struck down those bans in some states and permitted them in others. In the southeast, federal appeals courts have largely sided with the states. And now Tennessee parents of trans children are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. From member station WPLN in Nashville, Marianna Bacallao reports.

MARIANNA BACALLAO, BYLINE: The past few months have been a roller coaster for the Williams family. When they sued the state over access to gender-affirming care, a federal judge stopped the law from taking effect temporarily. But then Tennessee's attorney general appealed the injunction to a higher court and won.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: You know, it's just frustrating.

BACALLAO: That's Brian Williams, one of the plaintiffs opposing Tennessee's law. His daughter is transgender and no longer able to access treatment like hormone therapy and puberty blockers in their home state.

WILLIAMS: She's upset. I mean, she doesn't feel comfortable in the state. She feels like people not only don't understand trans folks but they want to get rid of trans folks. And it pains me.

BACALLAO: In lifting the temporary injunction, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals argued the law does not discriminate based on sex since the care given would only apply to one group, transgender minors. In the ruling, the court cited the Dobbs decision, which ended the federal right to abortion.

LUCAS CAMERON-VAUGHN: So they're trying to expand on Dobbs.

BACALLAO: That's ACLU attorney Lucas Cameron-Vaughn. He says Dobbs argues that abortion care or the lack thereof is not discriminatory because it only applies to women. The 6th Circuit now, he says, is trying to apply that argument to transgender health care. But hormone therapy isn't just prescribed to transgender teens. It's given to treat conditions from cancer to acne. That's why he says the argument doesn't hold.

CAMERON-VAUGHN: In a way that it denies them the same health care that non-transgender youth are able to still receive.

BACALLAO: Cameron-Vaughn has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of families like the Williams, who are having a harder time finding treatment.

WILLIAMS: I mean, we'll just keep looking. I don't know what happens if they pass laws in Ohio. We may be, you know, going very far, like Colorado, I think, at this point.

BACALLAO: Now the future of gender-affirming care could be determined on the national level. For NPR News, I'm Marianna Bacallao in Nashville.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAREN MORRIS SONG, "GOLD LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marianna Bacallao

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