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Federal judges in Kentucky and Tennessee block portions of transgender youth care bans

Protesters of Kentucky Senate Bill SB150, known as the Transgender Health Bill, cheer on speakers during a rally on the lawn of the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., March 29, 2023. A federal judge temporarily blocked Kentucky’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youths on Wednesday, June 28, taking the action shortly before the measure was set to take effect. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Federal judges in Kentucky and Tennessee temporarily blocked bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, handing down the rulings just days before the statutes were set to go into effect.

The ruling is similar to roadblocks that federal courts have thrown up against Republican-dominant states in their pursuit to prevent young people from receiving transgender health care.

In both Kentucky and Tennessee, the judges blocked portions of the law that would have banned transgender youth from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapy. In the Tennessee case, the judge stopped short of also blocking the ban gender-affirming surgeries for youth.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky case didn’t address surgeries, but U.S. District Judge David Hale did side with seven transgender minors and their parents, who sued the state officials responsible for enforcing the provisions banning the use of puberty blockers and hormones. The plaintiffs contend the ban would violate their constitutional rights and interfere with parental rights to seek established medical treatment for their children.

The ruling blocked the “most egregious parts of Kentucky’s anti-trans law,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

In Tennessee, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson stressed that his ruling lined up with federal decisions blocking similar bans across the country but added he must “tread carefully” preventing a law from being enforced.

“If Tennessee wishes to regulate access to certain medical procedures, it must do so in a manner that does not infringe on the rights conferred by the United States Constitution, which is of course supreme to all other laws of the land,” Richardson wrote.