Mar 10, 2022 - News

Austin squares off against state over trans kids' rights

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) and Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Photos: Brandon Bell/Getty Images (right) and Sarah Karlan/Bloomberg via Getty Images (left)

Local officials are facing off with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott as state leaders work to label certain types of gender-affirming care for transgender kids as child abuse.

Driving the news: In a Wednesday news conference, Mayor Steve Adler designated Austin a "safe and inclusive city" for families with transgender children in response to state officials' efforts to investigate some gender-affirming care for transgender children.

  • "What we're seeing at the state level is frightening and horrific," Adler said.
  • His remarks came just hours before the Austin-based Third Court of Appeals dismissed Paxton's appeal in a case challenging Abbott's directive. The decision allows a Friday hearing for a statewide injunction to proceed.

The big picture: Transgender rights are just the latest issue — see police funding, homeless encampments, environmental protections and scores of other hot-button matters — to draw Austin officials into battle with Abbott and Paxton.

Between the lines: Paxton, the only statewide incumbent not to cruise in this month's Republican primary, is locked in a dogfight of a runoff set for late May — and Austin is an ever-useful political foil.

State of play: Paxton has made a slew of headlines in recent days, facing yet another misconduct allegation while catering to the far right of his party as he runs for re-election, facing a challenge from state Land Commissioner George P. Bush, scion of the Texas political dynasty.

Flashback: Paxton's nonbinding legal interpretation from February labels certain types of gender-affirming care for trans kids as child abuse.

  • Abbott backed Paxton's opinion, directing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate "any reported instances of these abusive procedures."
  • Experts on trans issues said no laws in Texas or any other states have characterized such medical care as abuse.
  • Moreover, the notions put forth by Paxton and Abbott go against medical consensus, which recommends gender-affirming care.

What they're saying: Amber Briggle, a Dallas-area mother, is now under investigation despite her dinner spent with Paxton and his wife.

  • "When we were notified of the allegations, it was as if the wind had been knocked out of us. We wanted to scream and cry, but we had no air," the couple wrote in a statement. "Raising a transgender child in Texas has been one long political emergency."
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