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SCOTUS To Decide Whether States Can Restrict Gender-Affirming Care For Minors

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Biden administration’s challenge to a transgender care ban in Tennessee. This marks the first substantive exploration of the issue of gender-affirming care by the Court.

The state law, which was enacted last year, prohibits hormone therapy and puberty blockers for minors and imposes civil penalties for doctors who violate the prohibitions. It is one of several state laws passed in recent years targeting transgender care.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, nearly half of U.S. states have enacted similar bans for minors. The case is scheduled to be heard this fall, CNN reported.

“The Supreme Court was always going to have to resolve how state bans on gender-affirming medical care can be reconciled with its approach to sex-based discrimination. Today’s grant sets up this issue as one of the early blockbusters for the Court’s upcoming term,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

People are cheering as President Joe Biden speaks at Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry campus in Tampa, Florida, on April 23, 2024. During the event, President Biden addressed the issue of abortion rights.

The Biden administration and families of transgender minors challenged laws in Kentucky and Tennessee. The only challenge the Biden administration in Tennessee filed was what the Supreme Court agreed to hear.

After a district court ruled that the gender-affirming care ban could not go into effect, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned it in September. You could say that the appeals court let the ban happen.

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Lawmakers from the Republican Party who back the ban say that care decisions should be made when a person is an adult. Opponents claim that in addition to violating the civil rights of trans youth, the laws also run afoul of parents’ rights to make decisions about their child’s medical care.

It is against the law in Tennessee for doctors to do procedures that “enable a minor to identify with or live as a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex” or that “treat purported discomfort or distress from a discordance between the minor’s sex and asserted identity.”

This kind of ban has been the subject of court cases in federal courts for more than a year. In April, the Supreme Court let Idaho officials briefly enforce a strict statewide ban on gender-affirming care for most minors.

However, the court did not answer the case’s main questions during this time.

The Supreme Court has been busy lately.

Last week, the justices rejected the challenge to the constitutionality of a federal law that bans the possession of a gun by someone who has been the subject of a domestic violence restraining order.

The vote was 8-1, with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting.

“The court holds that when an individual has been found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another, that individual may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment,” SCOTUS Blog reported.

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Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Since the founding, our nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms. As applied to the facts of this case, Section 922(g)(8) fits comfortably within this tradition.”

Discussing the application by the lower courts of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Roberts writes, “Some courts have misunderstood the methodology of our recent Second Amendment cases. These precedents were not meant to suggest a law trapped in amber.”

Otherwise, Roberts explained, the Second Amendment would only protect “muskets and sabers.”

“Why and how the regulation burdens the right are central to this inquiry. For example, if laws at the founding regulated firearm use to address particular problems, that will be a strong indicator that contemporary laws imposing similar restrictions for similar reasons fall within a permissible category of regulations.”

The Supreme Court made headlines last week when it unanimously rejected a challenge to the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate an abortion-related medication.

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Justices ruled 9-0 that challengers lacked standing to oppose the FDA’s regulatory approval process of the abortion drug mifepristone, in a decision seen as a victory for the Biden administration and abortion rights activists, Fox News reported.

“Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue. Nor do the plaintiffs’ other standing theories suffice,” wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who authored the unanimous opinion.

“The plaintiffs have sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections to elective abortion and to the FDA’s relaxed regulation of mifepristone,” he said. “But under Article III of the Constitution, those kinds of objections alone do not establish a justiciable case or controversy in federal court,” he added.

The justices remanded the case back down to the Fifth Circuit, consistent with the Court’s opinion.

The case stemmed from a set of lawsuits filed by a group of healthcare associations, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which claimed that the drug has a high rate of complications.

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