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DOJ sues Tennessee over law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth

The U.S. Department of Justice is the second legal challenge to Tennessee's law banning gender-affirming care for trans minors.
Rachel Iacovone
The U.S. Department of Justice is the second legal challenge to Tennessee's law banning gender-affirming care for trans minors.

Tennessee’s law banning gender-affirming care for transgender kids is facing another challenge. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a complaint against the state, arguing that the new law violates the Fourteenth Amendment and will deny “medically necessary care” for trans youth.

The ban, set to take effect this summer, would bar minors from accessing hormone therapy and puberty blockers. Under the law, teenagers already taking hormones would have until March of next year to stop taking them.

The DOJ’s complaint has intervened in a joint lawsuit filed against the law last week by LGBTQ advocacy groups on behalf of three Tennessee families.

Plaintiff Samantha Williams says her daughter taking estrogen has greatly improved her mental health.

“I am so afraid of what this law will mean for her,” Williams says. “We don’t want to leave Tennessee, but this legislation would force us to either routinely leave our state to get our daughter the medical care she desperately needs, or to uproot our entire lives and leave Tennessee altogether. No family should have to make this kind of choice.”

On Twitter, Gov. Bill Lee called the complaint “federal overreach.”

The ACLU of Tennessee says that gender-affirming care saves lives and dramatically reduces depression and thoughts of self-harm in a population with high suicide rates.

The Rev. Dawn Bennett of The Table Nashville, a faith group that centers the LGBTQ community, says she has seen that firsthand. She’s often called to the bedsides of trans teens who have attempted suicide.

“There are at least four human beings that I have touched with my hands who are this side of the grave because of the gender-affirming care that they (received),” Bennett said.

The department is asking the court to issue an immediate injunction to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1.

Marianna Bacallao is a Cuban American journalist at WPLN and the new afternoon host for Nashville Public Radio. Before coming to Nashville, she was the morning host and general assignment reporter for WVIK Quad Cities NPR, where she hosted through a record-breaking wind storm that caused statewide power outages. A Georgia native, she was a contributor to Georgia Public Broadcasting during her undergrad years and served as editor-in-chief for Mercer University’s student newspaper.
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