Supreme Court Upholds Idaho Ban On Transgender Care For Minors

The Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, on Monday allowed a Republican-backed law in Idaho, criminalizing gender-affirming care for transgender minors, to broadly take effect.

This decision came after U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill had blocked the law as unconstitutional.

The court granted Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador’s request to narrow the preliminary injunction issued by Winmill, who had ruled that the law violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law.

The Supreme Court’s order permits the state to enforce the ban against everyone except the plaintiffs who had challenged it.

The decision was supported by five of the court’s six conservative justices, while the three liberal justices dissented. Chief Justice John Roberts did not publicly disclose his vote.

Judge Winmill’s injunction came in response to a lawsuit filed by two transgender girls, aged 15 and 16, and their parents, just days before the Idaho law, known as the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, was set to take effect on January 1.

This law, similar to measures passed by other Republican-led states, targets medical interventions for adolescents with gender dysphoria, prohibiting treatments such as puberty blockers, hormones, and mastectomies that are deemed “inconsistent with the child’s biological sex.” Healthcare professionals providing such treatments under the law could face up to 10 years in prison.

Labrador, defending the law, emphasized the state’s duty to protect children, stating, “The state has a duty to protect and support all children, and that’s why I’m proud to defend Idaho’s law that ensures children are not subjected to these life-altering drugs and procedures.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing the plaintiffs, criticized the decision, stating that it would deny care to thousands of families in Idaho. Although the ruling did not address the constitutionality of the law itself, the ACLU expressed concern for transgender youth and their families.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, in a dissent joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, highlighted the need for caution in such cases, particularly in “novel, highly charged, and unsettled circumstances.”

The plaintiffs argued that the law discriminated based on sex and transgender status, contending that gender-affirming care had improved their mental health and enabled them to thrive.

Judge Winmill’s ruling emphasized the law’s discrimination against transgender minors, violating their rights under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. He also noted that it infringed on parents’ fundamental rights to access medical care for their children under the due process clause of the same amendment.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch cautioned against issuing broad injunctions like Winmill’s, suggesting that they exceeded the historic limits of judicial authority. Gorsuch’s opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, aimed to curtail the use of universal injunctions by lower courts.

After the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to lift the injunction, Labrador, supported by the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, sought intervention from the Supreme Court.

This case underscores the ongoing legal battles over transgender rights and the broader societal debate surrounding gender-affirming care for minors.