Supreme Court is asked to block state's gender-affirming health care ban

November 4, 2023
Robert Ayers

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to block a Tennessee law that would ban gender-affirming care for minors. 

Reuters reports that the petition, which was filed on Wednesday, comes from a Tennessee doctor and the families of three Tennessee teenagers.

The outlet reports that this petition is the first of its kind to be filed before the nation's highest court. But, the case is representative of similar lawsuits challenging similar bans in other states.

The law at issue is Tennessee Senate Bill 1.

The details

Tennessee Senate Bill 1, according to The Hill, prohibits Tennessee healthcare providers from providing gender-affirming healthcare to minors, that is, individuals under the age of 18.

"Gender-affirming healthcare" would include such things as hormones, puberty blockers, and even surgery. The purpose of each of these things is to help an individual transition from that individual's biological sex to a gender of the individual's choosing.

Suffice it to say that such practices are highly controversial, particularly in the case of minors. Republican-led states, such as Tennessee, have thus put laws on the books to combat such practices, laws that are specifically designed to protect minors.

These laws are now facing legal challenges. In Tennessee, the challenges have been brought by such advocacy groups as Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the Tennessee families and the Tennessee doctor mentioned at the outset.

The legal argument is that Tennessee Senate Bill 1 is unconstitutional.

How so?

Reuters explains:

They argue that the ban runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution in two ways: by banning treatments on the basis of the patient's sex, and by interfering with parents' fundamental right to direct their children's medical treatment.

The petitioners further argue that Tennessee's law would cause the teenagers and their families "severe physical and emotional harm" by preventing the teenagers from receiving "gender-affirming healthcare."

So, now, a petition has been submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to hear this case. This, of course, does not mean that the justices will take the case. Whether or not they will do so is up to their discretion.

It is always more likely, though, that the high court will hear a case when there is the possibility - as here - of conflicting rulings in the lower courts.

Reuters reports:

Courts have been divided on legal challenges to the bans. Most lower level courts to consider the bans have blocked them so far. The Georgia-based 11th U.S. Circuit in August upheld an Alabama ban. The St. Louis, Missouri-based 8th Circuit last year blocked an Arkansas ban, though the court is expected to consider the issue again.

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