Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce ban on gender-affirming care for minors

The decision overrides two lower federal courts that had upheld an injunction.

April 15, 2024, 6:38 PM

A divided Supreme Court on Monday allowed Idaho to proceed with broad enforcement of a new law aimed at prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors.

The decision overrides two lower federal courts that had upheld an injunction against the law as litigation over its constitutionality continues.

The decision was backed by all six of the high court's conservative members. The three liberal justices -- Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson -- indicated they would have kept the law on hold.

"Ordinarily, injunctions like these may go no further than necessary to provide interim relief to the parties," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a statement concurring with the court's decision. "In this case, however, the district court went much further, prohibiting a state from enforcing any aspect of its duly enacted law against anyone."

The court did, however, allow the parents and two children who brought the case against the law to continue to obtain treatments during litigation. The children are said to be seeking puberty blockers and estrogen, which the families and their doctors say are critical for mental health.

In her dissent, Jackson argued the high court should have refrained from intervening in such a high-profile case at an early stage, disrupting what she described as the legal status quo.

"In my view, we should resist being conscripted into service when our involvement amounts to micromanaging the lower courts' exercise of their discretionary authority in the midst of active litigation," Jackson wrote.

In a joint statement, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho called the ruling an "awful result."

"While the court's ruling today importantly does not touch upon the constitutionality of this law, it is nonetheless an awful result for transgender youth and their families across the state," the joint statement read. "Today's ruling allows the state to shut down the care that thousands of families rely on while sowing further confusion and disruption. Nonetheless, today's result only leaves us all the more determined to defeat this law in the courts entirely, making Idaho a safer state to raise every family."

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, who had asked the court to allow enforcement, issued a statement following the decision.

"The state has a duty to protect and support all children, and that's why I'm proud to defend Idaho's law that ensures children are not subjected to these life-altering drugs and procedures," he said in a statement. "Those suffering from gender dysphoria deserve love, support and medical care rooted in biological reality. Denying the basic truth that boys and girls are biologically different hurts our kids. No one has the right to harm children, and I'm grateful that we, as the state, have the power -- and duty -- to protect them."

Transgender youth are more likely to experience anxiety, depressed mood, and suicidal ideation and attempts, often due to gender-related discrimination and gender dysphoria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gender-affirming hormone therapy has been proven to improve the mental health of transgender adolescents and teenagers, according to a recent 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 over 20 others agree that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, beneficial and medically necessary.