Justice Department Challenges Tennessee Law that Bans Critical, Medically Necessary Care for Transgender Youth
The Justice Department today filed a complaint challenging Tennessee Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), a recently enacted law that denies necessary medical care to youth based solely on who they are. The complaint alleges that SB 1’s ban on providing certain medically necessary care to transgender minors violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The department is also asking the court to issue an immediate order to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1, 2023.
SB 1 makes it unlawful to provide or offer to provide certain types of medical care for transgender minors with diagnosed gender dysphoria. SB 1’s blanket ban prohibits potential treatment options that have been recommended by major medical associations for consideration in limited circumstances in accordance with established and comprehensive guidelines and standards of care. By denying only transgender youth access to these forms of medically necessary care while allowing non-transgender minors access to the same or similar procedures, SB 1 discriminates against transgender youth. The department’s complaint alleges that SB 1 violates the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating on the basis of both sex and transgender status. Doctors, parents and anyone else who provides or offers to provide the prohibited care faces the possibility of civil suits for 30 years and other sanctions.
“No person should be denied access to necessary medical care just because of their transgender status,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The right to consider your health and medically-approved treatment options with your family and doctors is a right that everyone should have, including transgender children, who are especially vulnerable to serious risks of depression, anxiety and suicide. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department will continue to aggressively challenge all forms of discrimination and unlawful barriers faced by the LGBTQI+ community.”
“SB1 violates the constitutional rights of some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Henry Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee. “Left unchallenged, it would prohibit transgender children from receiving health care that their medical providers and their parents have determined to be medically necessary. In doing so, the law seeks to substitute the judgment of trained medical professionals and parents with that of elected officials and codifies discrimination against children who already face far too many obstacles.”
Today’s filings are the latest action by the Justice Department to combat LGBTQI+ discrimination, including unlawful restrictions on medical care for transgender youth. On March 31, 2022, Assistant Attorney General Clarke issued a letter to all state attorneys general reminding them of federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth against discrimination. On April 29, 2022, the Justice Department intervened in a lawsuit challenging a law in Alabama (Senate Bill 184) that imposes a felony ban on medically necessary care for transgender minors. As a result of that litigation, the most significant provisions of Alabama’s Senate Bill 184 have been preliminarily halted from going into effect, and the United States continues to challenge its constitutionality.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division’s work to uphold and protect the civil and constitutional rights of LGBTQI+ individuals is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt/lgbtqi-working-group. Complaints about discriminatory practices may be reported to the Civil Rights Division through its internet reporting portal at civilrights.justice.gov.