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Federal appeals court promises swift ruling on Tennessee ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Kristen Chapman moved from Tennessee to Virginia so her 15 year-old transgender daughter can continue receiving gender-affirming care.
Tennessee Lookout
John Partipilo
Kristen Chapman moved from Tennessee to Virginia so her 15 year-old transgender daughter can continue receiving gender-affirming care.

A federal appeals court has promised a swift decision in a legal challenge to Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors.

At issue during Friday’s oral arguments, held before a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals: whether to set aside a lower court’s temporary block of the law.

The appeals court has already intervened once, on an emergency basis, allowing Tennessee’s law to take effect until they could hear arguments in the case. The intervention, in July, marked the the first time a federal court allowed a ban on gender affirming care to take effect in the country. Other federal courts have blocked such bans, finding they violated the Equal Protection Clause, Due Process Clause and First Amendment.

Addressing the court on Friday, Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, argued the law discriminates on the basis of sex. The U.S. government has also intervened in the case on behalf of the Tennessee plaintiffs, who include children receiving gender-affirming care and their parents.

Clark L. Hildabrand. deputy chief of staff and senior counsel for the Tennessee Attorney General argued the courts should defer to the legislature.

The court on Friday heard a nearly-identical challenge to a ban on gender-affirming care for minors in Kentucky.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, acknowledged he struggled with both cases. Sutton authored the July decision allowing Tennessee’s ban to go into effect.

“I think we have to come to grips with the larger picture —at age 18, this all goes away,” he said. Sutton said he was struck by arguments that withholding treatment for minors can subject them to harm.

“I think this is your strongest argument,” he said, adding that compassion is also needed for those who may later regret receiving care. “I feel like there’s compassion in both directions.”

This story was originally published by the Tennessee Lookout.

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.
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