A federal judge temporarily blocked part of a Kentucky state law from taking effect that would ban the prescription and administration of puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender people younger than 18. The judge said the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their challenge to the law on constitutional grounds.
The preliminary injunction was issued Wednesday afternoon by Judge David J. Hale of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. It comes almost two months after the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven transgender children and their parents.
Judge Hale, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2014, said in his ruling that, based on the evidence, the treatments barred by the law “are medically appropriate and necessary for some transgender children” according to major medical organizations.
Background: A bill that addresses medical care, schools and bathrooms
Other states have recently passed clusters of bills that each regulate the lives of transgender minors in some way, but Kentucky legislators took a different approach, bundling numerous restrictions into a single measure, known as Senate Bill 150. L.G.B.T.Q. rights groups describe it as one of the most extreme anti-trans bills in the country.
The law prohibits doctors in Kentucky from providing gender transition surgery or administering puberty blockers or hormone therapy to people under 18.
It also prohibits school districts from requiring or recommending that any student be referred to by a pronoun that “does not conform to a student’s biological sex,” and it forbids transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identities. Under the law, lessons about sexuality cannot be taught in schools before the sixth grade, and lessons are forbidden at any grade about gender identity or sexual orientation, among other things.
The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the bill in March. It was vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, who said that it allowed “too much government interference in personal health care issues.” But the legislature overrode his veto, with Republicans defending the legislation saying that it would protect the safety of children.
Most of the bill took effect immediately, but some provisions, were set to go into effect on June 29.
The A.C.L.U. sued in May, seeking to block the provisions regarding the ban of puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender minors, saying that the measure “intrudes on family privacy and prevents doctors from doing their job.”
Why It Matters: The latest victory for transgender-rights advocates
The Kentucky law is part of a national wave of laws passed by Republican legislators recently that zero in on issues of gender and identity. At least 17 states have passed bans or restrictions on transition care for young people this year.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed legislation in May making his state the largest to ban transition surgery and hormone and puberty blocking treatments for transgender children.
Court challenges to the bans have been brought in several states; many of the challenges, like the one in Kentucky, are still in litigation. But when judges have weighed in, it has frequently been on the side of transgender-rights advocates.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Indiana largely blocked that state’s ban on transition medical care for minors from taking effect. Last month in Alabama, a federal judge ordered the state not to enforce parts of a new law that made it a felony for health care providers to prescribe hormones or puberty blocking medication to children and teenagers, while a challenge to the law makes its way through the courts.
And last week, a federal judge in Arkansas, the first state to pass a ban on medical care for transgender minors, struck the law down, delivering a significant victory for transgender minors and their families.
The Arkansas ruling was closely watched as a test of whether the state bans could withstand legal challenges.
With Judge Hale’s order keeping parts of the Kentucky law from taking effect for now, the A.C.L.U.’s legal challenge to the law will move forward. Health care options for transgender youth will remain available in the state while the litigation continues. The other provisions of the law remain in effect.
“This is a win, but it is only the first step,” Corey Shapiro, the legal director of the A.C.L.U. in Kentucky, said on Wednesday. We are prepared, he added, to do “everything in our power to ensure access to medical care is permanently secured in Kentucky.”