Attorney General James Urges U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate Texas Anti-Transgender Order for Civil Rights Violations

AG James and 30 Advocacy Groups Argue That 
Governor Abbott’s Action Violates Federal Civil Rights Law

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James — leading a coalition of 30 national, state, and local advocacy groups — called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch a federal investigation into Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s recent directive to treat gender-affirming care for transgender children as child abuse. In their letter to DOJ’s Civil Rights division, Attorney General James and the coalition argue that the order, implemented last month, is discriminatory, potentially unlawful, and does untold harm to trans youth in Texas.

“Let me be very clear: Gender-affirming treatment is not child abuse. It is a critical form of healthcare that allows trans children to lead healthy and happy lives,” said Attorney General James. “This heinous directive is extremely harmful and speaks to Governor Abbott's fundamental inability and unwillingness to protect the most vulnerable children in Texas communities. We must do all that we can to support trans children, not rip them away from their loving families and cause irreparable damage to their mental and physical wellbeing. I urge DOJ to investigate Governor Abbott’s order for violating the civil rights of trans children across Texas.”

On February 22, 2022, Governor Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the use of gender-affirming procedures on children and called for investigations into parents and doctors who provide trans children with gender-affirming care. The order follows Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's nonbinding legal opinion that claims providing access to sex reassignment surgery, puberty blockers, testosterone, and estrogen treatments could all be considered as child abuse.

In their letter, Attorney General James and the coalition note that every major medical association in the U.S. recognizes the medical necessity of transition-related care for improving the physical and mental health of transgender people. Medical groups have also reported that trans youth face a higher risk of various harms including violence victimization, substance use, and suicide. Attorney General James and the coalition assert that Governor Abbott’s order is more likely to increase the bullying, alienation, and despair that trans youth experience — not make them safer. The order will also force agencies to shift resources away from investigating actual child abuse cases, which will reduce protections for at-risk children.

Attorney General James and the coalition contend that the investigation, and potential separation, of trans youth and their parents for seeking out doctor-recommended medical treatment may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and violates protections against discrimination under federal statutes, such as Title IX and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

The advocacy groups that have joined Attorney General James in calling on DOJ to investigate the order for civil rights violations include:

African Services Committee
BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
CNY Pride
Day One New York
Destination Tomorrow: The Bronx LGBTQ+ Center
The Door
Empire Justice Center, Rochester
Evergreen Health
Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBTQIA+ Youth
Gender Equality New York
The HIV League
Housing Works
In Our Own Voices, Inc.
Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center
The LOFT: LGBTQ+ Community Center
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice
The NEW Pride Agenda
Planned Parenthood Empire States
Pride Center of Western New York
SAGE Upstate
Spectrum Transgender Group of Western New York
Stonewall Democratic Club
Stonewall Democrats of Western New York