Georgia families sue to block law restricting care for transgender kids from taking effect

Medical supplies in a drawer at QueerMed, an Atlanta-area medical practice that specializes in treating transgender patients. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

This story was updated at 11:24 a.m.

Four families are now suing to block Georgia’s new restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender children from taking effect July 1.

Senate Bill 140 prohibits minors from receiving hormone replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgery, with few exceptions.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia, roughly 24 hours before the law is slated to be in force. A judge would need to issue an injunction to temporarily stop the law from taking effect. Otherwise, it will become law at midnight on July 1.

Republican lawmakers muscled through the legislation this spring, over the protests of most Democrats and amid a wave of bills around the country focused on transgender children.

Similar laws in Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana and Florida have been enjoined by the courts. On Wednesday, federal judges in Tennessee and Kentucky blocked parts of their bans on care for transgender children.

Georgia’s law is somewhat narrower than these states in that it does not ban puberty blockers — which pause puberty until a child begins hormone replacement therapy.

Georgia families with transgender children and medical providers have already been preparing for the law to take effect — in some cases rushing to begin hormone replacement therapy before the deadline or taking steps to move out of state. One doctor reports a patient in Georgia was hospitalized after trying to harm themselves over fears about the new law.

Attorney General Chris Carr’s office responded to the lawsuit in a statement on Friday.

“The attorney general will do his job, which includes defending laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor,” said Carr’s spokesperson Kara Richardson.

Democratic state Rep. Karla Drenner — the first openly LGBTQ member of the Georgia legislature — speaks out against SB 140 in the House chamber on Thursday, March 16, 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

‘These outcomes cannot be squared with the Constitution

The plaintiffs have requested a court order protecting their anonymity, citing safety concerns. They are being represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU of Georgia, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and two large law firms.

“Our sweet, bright and creative daughter has been a girl for as long as she can remember,” says one of the four plaintiffs, identified in a press release as Anna Zoe. “Her identity as a girl is as natural and innate as any of the other attributes she was born with — blue eyes, left-handedness, and an infectious laugh. Access to gender-affirming care will allow our daughter to develop into the person she has always wanted to be, and the person she has always been inside.”

Republicans who supported the law said they wanted to prevent children from receiving medical treatments they may later regret.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends doctors provide children with “comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care.”

Ben Bradshaw, an attorney with O’Melveny & Myers LLP who is representing the four families, says the plaintiffs will argue the law is unconstitutional.

“The health care ban singles out transgender minors and denies them essential medical care,” Bradshaw said in a press release. “It further infringes on the fundamental right of parents to make medical decisions in the best interests of their children. These outcomes cannot be squared with the Constitution.”

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr have yet to respond to the lawsuit, but the state is expected to defend the law in court.

This is a developing story.