(Reuters) – Child abuse inspectors in Texas were told they had to investigate parents who put their transgender children through gender-affirming procedures, even if they did not think abuse had occurred, a child protective services supervisor testified on Friday.
Supervisor Randa Mulanax was the first witness in a hearing before a Texas district judge who is considering a request that she temporarily block Governor Greg Abbott’s investigation order.
The hearing is part of pushback by LGBT groups against conservative politicians’ proposals in dozens of U.S. states to criminalize gender-affirming procedures for trans youth in the run up to midterm elections.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Mr. Abbott over his directive to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to carry out probes that could remove trans children from families and jail parents who provide them with procedures that the governor said “constitute child abuse.”
Mr. Abbott also ordered doctors, nurses, and teachers to report such care or face criminal penalties.
Ms. Mulanax, a DFPS employee, said her agency did not give workers the option to determine a reported case of child abuse involving a transgender child was “priority none” status, meaning it did not merit investigation.
“We had to be investigating these cases,” Ms. Mulanax testified, adding that she has handed in her resignation notice, as she believes the directive is “unethical.”
The ACLU asked District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum to impose a statewide injunction on investigations by the DFPS into what the civil rights group termed “medically necessary gender-affirming care.”
Judge Meachum last week temporarily blocked a probe of the parents of a 16-year-old transgender girl, saying it would make them the subject of “an unfounded child abuse investigation.”
Opponents of gender-transitioning procedures say minors are too young to make life-altering decisions about their bodies. Advocates argue that it is crucial care that has been politically weaponized, impacting the mental health of trans youth who suffer a disproportionately high rate of suicide.
Over 60 major U.S. businesses, including Apple and Johnson & Johnson, signed their names to an advertisement that ran in Texas on Friday opposing Abbott’s directive, saying “discrimination is bad for business.”
The DFPS has opened nine child welfare inquiries subject to Mr. Abbott’s directive, a spokesman said.
Mr. Abbott, a Republican running for a third term in office, issued the directive days before a Texas primary election that he easily won.
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