Supreme Court rules that Idaho can block transgender healthcare for minors

The US Supreme Court has allowed Idaho to enforce a ban on minors receiving gender-affirming healthcare, overturning a district court judge’s previous decision.

The law – HB 71 – sought to prohibit minors in the state from receiving puberty blockers, hormones and other treatments. It was due to go into effect on 1 January 2024.

Under the law, clinicians would have faced up to 10 years in prison if they provided such treatment to those under 18.

Idaho officials filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court last year, asking that they allow the ban to go into effect while further litigation continues.

On Monday the Supreme Court’s liberal majority objected to the decision.

HB 71 – also known as the Vulnerbale Child Protection Act – was adopted by Idaho in 2023. However, before it could be put into effect, the families of two trangender teens sued the state’s attorney general and a local prosecutor in federal district court.

The children and their parents alleged that, without access to puberty blockers and estrogen, the two minor plaintiffs – aged 16 and 17 respectively – would likely suffer serious mental health problems.

Monday’s ruling overturned a previous decision by a district court judge in Idaho (Idaho Statesman)

Both attested to how the medical treatment improved their mental health and claimed that the ban violated protections laid out in the US Constitution.

Shortly after filing the suit, the plaintiffs asked the district court to issue a preliminary injunction, which the district court agreed to. The court issued a “universal injunction” – meaning state officials were prevented from enforcing the law completely and indefinitely until the litigation was concluded.

In Monday’s filing the Supreme Court liberal majorit granted the families permission to continue accessing their treatments, but allowed the state to press ahead largely with its enforcment of the law.

The US Supreme Court currently holds a 6-3 conservative majority, and the decision ruled that the district court’s injunction was too broad.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, in an opinion explaining his vote to allow the law to be enforced, said the lower court had gone “much further” than needed in putting the entire law on hold. The Supreme Court’s intervention should be viewed as a “welcome development,” he wrote.

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