DALLAS — President Joe Biden issued a statement on Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive targeting transgender children and their parents, calling it “government overreach at its worst.”
Abbott’s directive to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is to investigate some parents of transgender children for potential child abuse.
"Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points," the president's statement said. "These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop."
Lambda Legal senior attorney Shelly Skeen agreed.
“Parents are completely and wholly worried about this,” she told WFAA.
After the governor issued his directive, which followed release of an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of a parent who was being investigated under the new directive. The two groups won after a judge blocked that investigation, though the state quickly appealed.
“The judge’s ruling said that the family could not be investigated by DFPS, and because of the appeal, now that ruling is stopped. So, what that means is DFPS can investigate the family,” Skeen explained. “The problem, at the end of the day is, is that the governor’s directive and what CPS is doing, does not comply with the law.”
A judge set a hearing for March 11 to determine the validity of the order statewide.
The governor’s directive specifically focuses on parents who provided gender-affirming care in the form of medicine that stalls puberty. Leading health care groups like the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association call it “medically necessary.”
Kate Black is an Attorney with Disability Rights Texas. She said all of these organizations have come out in agreement that not only is the gender-affirming care medically necessary care, but "interfering with that care can have disastrous consequences for children."
“Gender-affirming care is a really complex intersection of mental and physical health care, and physicians and treating professionals are the best people to determine what’s best for a child, and that care that is medically necessary cannot be child abuse," Black said.
As part of the president's statement, he said his administration and the Department of Health and Human Services are taking action to support LGBTQ+ youth by "putting the state of Texas on notice that their discriminatory actions put children's lives at risk." Part of those actions include releasing guidance that reinforces that denying health care based on gender identity is illegal and that providers are not required to disclose private patient information.
Abbot and Paxton are among state leaders who believe these investigations need to happen, as a fight in the courts is just getting underway.
“This is awful for parents because they feel like somebody can come take their kids away, and that is not true,” Skeen said.
The stances of Abbott and Paxton comes as Texas -- and other mostly Republican-led states in the U.S. -- have moved recently to pass legislation that targets transgender Americans, from restricting their ability to use bathrooms that align with their gender to limiting trans students' participation in sports.
Issues surrounding the rights of transgender people have also become a flashpoint for politicians, who have used rhetoric on social issues like abortion, critical race theory and same-sex marriage to galvanize support from their base during election cycles.
Both Abbott and Paxton are locked in contentious re-election bids for the March 1 primary ahead of the November general election.