Supreme Court to review ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Twenty-five states have passed bans on gender-affirming care.

June 24, 2024, 10:24 AM

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will take up a constitutional challenge to state bans on gender-affirming care for minors in its next term.

The case from Tennessee involves the 15-year-old transgender daughter of Samantha and Brian Williams of Nashville.

The family alleges that Senate Bill 1, which prohibits certain types of medical treatments for minors with diagnosed gender dysphoria, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The law restricts access to puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries for the purpose of gender transitioning.

By denying only transgender youth access to these forms of medically necessary care while allowing non-transgender minors access to the same or similar procedures, SB 1 discriminates against transgender youth, they argue.

"It was incredibly painful watching my child struggle before we were able to get her the life-saving health care she needed. We have a confident, happy daughter now, who is free to be herself and she is thriving," plaintiff Samantha Williams said in a statement.

An exterior view of the Supreme Court on June 20, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

"I am so afraid of what this law will mean for her. We don't want to leave Tennessee, but this legislation would force us to either routinely leave our state to get our daughter the medical care she desperately needs or to uproot our entire lives and leave Tennessee altogether," she said. "No family should have to make this kind of choice."

Tennessee is home to more than 3,000 transgender adolescents, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the Williams family in the case.

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee and other states with similar laws contend that each state is free to regulate medical standards and procedures as it sees fit.

Gov. Bill Lee has defended the law in the past, saying, "Tennessee is committed to protecting children from permanent, life-altering decisions," in an April 2023 post on X after the Justice Department also argued the law violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

Twenty-five states have passed bans on gender-affirming youth care, including Florida, Ohio and Montana, where the laws are currently on hold under court order during litigation.

Research has found that hormone therapy can improve the mental health of transgender adolescents and teenagers, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Major national medical associations -- including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and more than 20 others -- agree that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, beneficial and medically necessary.

LGBTQ advocates on Monday called on the Supreme Court to restore access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth across the country.

"Everyone deserves access to the medical care that they need, and transgender and non-binary young people are no exception. No politician should be able to interfere in decisions that are best made between families and doctors, particularly when that care is necessary and best practice," Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said Monday in a statement. "These dangerous bans have forced families to make heartbreaking decisions to support their children."

Milo Inglehart, staff attorney at Transgender Law Center, told ABC News: "For years, hostile politicians have been using fear and misinformation to push medical bans, like SB1 in Tennessee, and cause unnecessary harm to our communities. Young people need to know that we will not stop fighting dangerous legislation that targets their ability to grow, thrive and live authentically."

State Sen. Jack Johnson, who sponsored the bill, said he looks forward to the case being tried in the Supreme Court.

"I am extremely proud of the work we have done to protect children from medical procedures that have long-term, irreversible and damaging effects," Johnson told ABC News. "Our laws place limits on what potentially dangerous decisions minor children can make on a regular basis, whether it be driving a motor vehicle or consuming alcohol. It's just common sense."

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