Appeals court upholds Tennessee's ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors

Tennessee and Kentucky can enforce laws banning gender-affirming care for minors, such as surgery, hormones and puberty blockers, a federal appeals court ruled late Thursday.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit rejected a challenge brought by families of transgender children, determining the laws do not discriminate on the basis of age or sex.

"This is a relatively new diagnosis with ever-shifting approaches to care over the last decade or two," Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote. "Under these circumstances, it is difficult for anyone to be sure about predicting the long-term consequences of abandoning age limits of any sort for these treatments."

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti in a statement late Thursday called it a "win for democracy."

"Decisions that are not clearly resolved by the Constitution should be resolved by the people through their elected representatives," he said.

The ruling comes after a federal appeals court upheld a similar ban in Alabama, while federal district courts have overturned bans in several states including Arkansas, Florida and Georgia. Legal experts have said the matter will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee earlier this year signed into law the state's total ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children. The ACLU and other plaintiffs in April sued the state on behalf of three Tennessee families with transgender children, who argued that they would be forced to leave the state to continue receiving what they say is life-saving health care.

The ACLU in a joint statement with Lambda Legal called the decision a devastating blow to transgender youth and their families. The organization said it is assessing its next legal steps.

"The disastrous impact of Tennessee’s law and all others like it has already been felt in thousands of homes and communities," the statement said. "Denying transgender youth equality before the law and needlessly withholding the necessary medical care their families and their doctors know is right for them has caused and will continue to cause serious harm."

A federal judge had previously blocked part of Tennessee’s law from going into effect, but the appeals court in an earlier ruling rejected a stay request to block enforcement. The law took effect in July.

In Thursday’s ruling, Sutton said the country has a “long tradition of permitting state governments to regulate medical treatments for adults and children” so long as a federal statute does not stand in the way.

However, Judge Helene White, in her dissent, said the states cannot “intrude on the well-established province of parents to make medical decisions for their minor children.”

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee's ban on transgender health care for minors upheld by court