U.S. appeals court upholds Kentucky’s ban on some medical care for transgender minors

Published 10:30 am Monday, October 2, 2023

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By Sarah Ladd

Kentucky Lantern

Nearly a month after hearing oral arguments on Kentucky’s ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, a federal three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday to keep the ban in place.

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This means Kentucky minors who seek treatment like hormones will not be able to access that care.

The appeals court’s 2-1 order also upheld a similar law in Tennessee.

In the majority opinion, Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton wrote: “No one in these consolidated cases debates the existence of gender dysphoria or the distress caused by it.”

“And no one doubts,” he continued, “the value of providing psychological and related care to children facing it. The question is whether certain additional treatments — puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgeries — should be added to the mix of treatments available to those age 17 and under.”

In her dissenting opinion, Judge Helene White said that “the statutes we consider today discriminate based on sex and gender conformity and intrude on the well-established province of parents to make medical decisions for their minor children.”

When they argued before the panel, the ACLU made this case as well – that the part of SB150 in question discriminates on the basis of sex because the biological sex would need to be known for transgender minors to be denied care.

A spokesperson told the Lantern that the ACLU will review the judges’ opinion and look at potential next legal steps. It’s not clear yet, the spokesperson said, if this case will go to the United States Supreme Court. The plaintiffs could also seek a hearing before all the judges of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The ban is part of Senate Bill 150, which also bans surgeries like phalloplasty, vaginoplasty or hysterectomies and vasectomies on transgender minors. Neither the ACLU nor Kentucky LGBTQ+ organizations have taken issue with that part of the law.

SB 150 became law earlier this year over Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto. Cameron is the Republican nominee challenging Beshear for the governorship in the Nov. 7 election. The Cameron campaign issued a statement saying: “Andy Beshear has refused to stand up to protect our kids from these experimental and life-altering surgeries and drugs,” Daniel Cameron said. “I have empathy for these children and the families facing these incredibly difficult discussions. However, I do not think that the solution for these kids is moving to the most extreme option of life-altering drugs and surgery during their formative years. I will always protect our kids, defend our laws, and stand up for our Kentucky values.”

Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky wrote in a social media statement that “the current courts — both the Sixth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court — are not going to protect LGBT rights on a 14th Amendment basis.”

“Times have changed,” Ban Conversion Therapy said. “We need to be developing new legal theories for jurisprudence that meets the moment, not chasing after the past.”