Mar 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DOJ warns states over blocking access to gender-affirming treatment

An American flag flies outside the Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C. on June 21, 2021.

An American flag flies outside the Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C. on June 21, 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department sent a letter to state officials on Transgender Day of Visibility, advising them that blocking transgender and non-binary youth from receiving gender-affirming treatment could violate U.S. law.

Why it matters: Thursday's announcement comes as a wave of anti-trans laws targeting transgender youth has been introduced and passed in a number of Republican states around the country.

  • The letter, which was sent to all state attorneys general, was intended to remind them of the "federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth against discrimination."

What they're saying: "Intentionally erecting discriminatory barriers to prevent individuals from receiving gender-affirming care implicates a number of federal legal guarantees," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke wrote in the letter.

  • Federal prosecutors noted that policies preventing anyone from receiving gender-affirming medical care, could be in direct violation of constitutional protections.
  • “Today’s letter reaffirms state and local officials’ obligation to ensure that their laws and policies do not undermine or harm the health and safety of children, regardless of a child’s gender identity,” Clarke added.

The big picture: The DOJ's letter comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) passed legislation allowing state agencies to investigate parents for child abuse if they seek gender-affirming care for their children.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) penned a Teen Vogue op-ed on Thursday urging Congress to enshrine federal protections for transgender youth, stating such legislation "cannot wait any longer."

  • Jayapal, a mother of a trans child, described the series of Republican-led efforts targeting trans youth as being "fueled by a cocktail of ignorance, transphobia, and malice for trans kids, their parents, and the doctors and the communities who want to help them."
  • "These attacks on our children are precisely why we cannot wait any longer to enshrine protections for trans kids into federal law," she added.
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