Idaho Sued by Trans Teens Over Ban on Gender-Affirming Care

Transgender flag and Idaho Gov. Brad Little

Two Idaho families with transgender children have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s law that makes it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to trans minors.

House Bill 71, signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little in April, deems the delivery of any such care a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. It is set to go into effect in January, but the lawsuit seeks to keep that from happening.

“The Idaho State Legislature has taken the extraordinary step of criminalizing the provision of well accepted medical care,” reads the suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Idaho. “Under House Bill 71, an Idaho doctor faces 10 years in prison for providing to a transgender minor healthcare that is supported by every major medical organization in the United States, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.” Legislators and the governor ignored testimony from doctors and parents about the harm a ban on this care would do, the document says.

“The Healthcare Ban is not only harmful to the wellbeing of the minors it purports to protect; it is also unconstitutional,” the suit asserts. “It violates the right to equal protection of transgender adolescents by singling out for prohibition only medical treatments that affirm a patient’s gender if inconsistent with that patient’s ‘biological sex’ — thus prohibiting those treatments only for transgender minors.”

The ban “also infringes on a fundamental right — parents’ right to make decisions about their children’s medical care,” the suit continues. Both this right and the right to equal protection make the law subject to strict scrutiny by courts, it notes. It seeks to have the ban declared unconstitutional and unenforceable, as it violates the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Plaintiffs in the suit are two trans teens, identified by the pseudonyms Jane Doe and Pam Poe, and their parents. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, its Idaho affiliate, and the law firms Wrest Collective; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and Groombridge, Wu, Baughman & Stone LLP.

Named as defendants are Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador; Jan M. Bennetts, county prosecuting attorney for Ada, Idaho; and members of the Idaho Code Commission.

“Being able to live my life as my true self has been a long journey and my medical care has been an important part of that journey. My family, my doctors, and I have worked together to make decisions about my medical care, and it’s shocking to have politicians take those decisions away from us,” Jane Doe, a 16-year-old transgender girl, said in an ACLU press release. “Trans people like myself deserve the same chance at safety and liberty as everyone else, but this law specifically targets us and our health care for no good reason. I’m 16 — I should be hanging out with my friends and planning my future instead of fighting my state for the health care I need.”

“This law is a dangerous intrusion upon the rights and lives of Idaho families. Our state should be a safe place to raise every child, including transgender youth, and HB 71 threatens to deny them the safety and dignity they deserve,” said Amy Dundon, legislative strategist with the ACLU of Idaho. “We welcome this opportunity to defend the transgender youth of Idaho and their families from this discriminatory political attack and we won’t stop defending them until each one has all the care and support they need to thrive.”

“We are determined to protect the transgender youth of Idaho, their families, and their medical providers from this unjust and dangerous attack on their rights and lives,” added Li Nowlin-Sohl, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “This health care is supported by every major medical organization in the U.S. and is critical for the futures of transgender youth across the state. We will not rest until this unconstitutional law is struck down.”

This is the eighth legal challenge by the ACLU and its nationwide affiliate network so far against a wave of bans targeting health care for transgender youth. The ACLU and the ACLU of Arkansas filed the first such challenge against the first such law in the country in 2021, and that law is blocked from enforcement while the suit proceeds. The ACLU and its affiliates have filed similar challenges in Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Montana, Kentucky, and Nebraska. The Oklahoma law is likewise temporarily blocked.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, and two private law firms are representing families and doctors in a suit against Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors. This law is also blocked while the suit is heard.

At least 19 states have enacted laws banning some or all such care. Bills to this effect are awaiting governors’ signatures in Missouri and Texas and are pending in several other state legislatures.