U.S. Appeals Court Allows Tennessee Law Restricting Transgender Youth Medical Care
A U.S. appeals court has ruled that a Tennessee law prohibiting doctors from providing certain medical care to transgender minors, such as puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgery, can go into effect immediately.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stated that the advocacy groups challenging Tennessee's law were unable to demonstrate a likelihood of success in their claims that the law violated the U.S. Constitution. In a 2-1 decision, the panel of judges reversed a previous ruling by a lower court that had blocked the enforcement of the law during the legal challenge.
In the appeals court's opinion, Judge Jeffrey Sutton emphasized the importance of democratic processes and cautioned against judicial overreach in matters that involve complex and evolving medical debates. He stated, "Life-tenured federal judges should be wary of removing a vexing and novel topic of medical debate from the ebbs and flows of democracy by construing a largely unamendable federal constitution to occupy the field."
At the time of the report, neither the advocacy groups nor the state's attorney general had provided a statement or could be reached for comment.
Tennessee's law is part of a broader trend among Republican lawmakers to impose restrictions on medical care for transgender youths. Supporters of the law argue that it is necessary to protect minors, while medical associations have emphasized that gender-affirming care can be life-saving.
Five similar laws have been blocked by federal judges who deemed them in violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee. However, the appeals court's decision suggests that in the absence of clear constitutional violations, matters regarding medical care and the protection of minors should be determined by state legislatures.
While Judge Helen White expressed her belief that Tennessee's law is likely unconstitutional as a form of sex discrimination, Judge Sutton noted that the appeals court aims to reach a final decision on the matter by September 30. He acknowledged that the current opinions were preliminary and subject to potential revision, stating, "These initial views, we must acknowledge, are just that: initial. We may be wrong."