Judge Temporarily Blocks Idaho’s Ban On Transgender Youth Health Care

The law banning gender-affirming health care for Idaho’s minors was set to go into effect in a matter of days.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of an Idaho law banning transgender health care for minors on Wednesday, just days before it was set to go into effect.

The law, which the state’s Republican Gov. Brad Little signed in April, bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy. It also bans gender-affirming surgeries for minors, though there’s no evidence of those taking place in Idaho.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Wednesday that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was right to ask for an injunction blocking the law until its lawsuit on behalf of two Idaho families impacted by the ban is decided, saying it had “shown a strong likelihood of success” in proving the state had violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

“Time and again, these cases illustrate that the 14th Amendment’s primary role is to protect disfavored minorities and preserve our fundamental rights from legislative overreach,” Winmill wrote in his decision. “That was true for newly freed slaves following the Civil War. It was true in the 20th century for women, people of color, inter-racial couples, and individuals seeking access to contraception. And it is no less true for transgender children and their parents in the 21st century.”

The law was set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

ACLU officials said Winmill’s decision should help transgender people feel optimistic about their rights, even in a year where more than 20 Republican-controlled states have passed bans on gender transition care for minors.

“This judicial decision is a much-needed ray of hope for trans people amid a years-long onslaught against their rights to access health care and ability to navigate the world around them,” Leo Morales, the ACLU of Idaho executive director, said in a statement. “Everyone should be free to live and thrive in their authentic identity, which means transgender people should not be shut out of accessing medically sound health care.”

Upon signing the bill, Little said he was doing so to protect minors from treatments that can “irreversibly damage their healthy bodies,” though medical experts say that view is narrow-minded.

Non-surgical gender-affirming treatments are largely reversible, though it’s possible for patients to experience permanent breast growth or reduced fertility with long-term use. But even given that, every major medical group says the risk of that potential outcome far outweighs the risks of the mental health effects associated with cutting minors off from gender-affirming care.

Transgender youth, they note, have one of the highest rates of attempted suicide in the United States. According to research from the Trevor Project, that rate is especially high among Black transgender and nonbinary youth, a quarter of which attempted suicide last year.

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