Georgia is one of at least 20 states that have recently adopted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Georgia is also the latest place where federal judges have stopped the enactment of these laws while supporters of transgender rights litigate the measures.
The injunction, published Sunday, by Judge Sarah Geraghty of the U.S. Court of the Northern District of Georgia allows Georgia’s medical community to continue prescribing hormonal therapy for minors who identify as transgender while the full court case against the law continues. It does not stay the prohibition on surgical interventions. To read the ruling, click here.
The decision is a temporary win for the Georgia parents of transgender children and the state and national advocacy groups who are plaintiffs in the case against the state. Judge Geraghty’s ruling also adds weight to questions about whether Georgia and other states are using ideological or medical arguments to limit care for people with so-called gender dysmorphia.
But the injunction may be short lived. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which includes Alabama and Georgia, reversed an injunction against a similar law in Alabama limiting medical treatment for transgender minors. In lifting the injunction in Alabama, which covered hormonal treatments and puberty blockers, the appellate court judges wrote that states have “a compelling interest in protecting children from drugs, particularly those for which there is uncertainty regarding benefits, recent surges in use, and irreversible effects.”
Georgia’s Attorney General Chris Carr, who is arguing on behalf of the state law, said that he will appeal Judge Geraghty’s injunction, a filing that would go before the same 11th Circuit appeals court.
Georgia’s new law, which went into effect July 1, prevents doctors from treating minors with gender-affirming care like hormone therapy or performing breast or genital surgeries. It was passed with the backing of Gov. Brian Kemp with a majority of the Republican-led state house, despite pleas by Georgia doctors and parents about the harm they believe the restrictions could cause children. Supporters of the law say they want to prevent what they consider radical therapies over an issue that many in their camp don’t believe is an authentic medical condition.
Judge Geraghty said her decision to impose the injunction on part of the law was due in part to the weight of evidence showing that the harm the ending hormonal therapy would cause to children “is sufficiently imminent. It is also both serious and irreparable.”
Plaintiffs who oppose the state law are using federal court to try to reverse it by citing the clause for equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Georgia’s law does not prohibit hormone therapies for all medical conditions, only when transgender youth are seeking them.
Within the 83-page legal argument, Geraghty raised questions about the medical evidence that the state and its supporters have presented in support of limiting medical care for transgender youth. She characterized the state’s arguments as inconsistent, ideological and not entirely compelling.
“There is a notable inconsistency between, on the one hand, Defendants’ experts’ insistence on a very high threshold of evidence in the context of claims about hormone therapy’s safety and benefits, and on the other hand their tolerance of a much lower threshold of evidence for claims about its risks, the likelihood of desistance and/or regret, and their notions about the ideological bias of a medical establishment that largely disagrees with them,” she said.
Geraghty’s argument is starkly different than the rationale given by appeals court Monday for reversing the injunction limiting Alabama’s transgender law. That panel of judges, all appointed during the Trump administration, agreed with arguments put forward by state Republicans that transgender treatments are experimental and dangerous.
Geraghty is Georgia’s newest member of the federal court and was appointed by the Biden administration last year.