For the first time, a federal appeals court has given the go-ahead for a state to enforce its ban on transgender treatments on children.
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a lower-court injunction and gave Tennessee the green light to enforce SB 1, a new law that prohibits surgery and hormones/puberty blockers on minors. Earlier this year, a district judge issued an injunction blocking the parts of the law pertaining to hormones and puberty blockers. Tennessee appealed the injunction.
The appeals court vote was 2-1.
Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton said Tennessee was likely to succeed. Sutton was nominated by President George W. Bush. He was joined by Judge Amul R. Thapar, a Trump nominee.
“On the one side of the ledger, parents generally can be expected to know what is best for their children,” Sutton wrote. “On the other side of the ledger, state governments have an abiding interest in ‘preserving the welfare of children.’”
Quoting the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, Sutton asserted that state legislatures “play a critical role in regulating health and welfare, and their efforts are usually ‘entitled to a ‘strong presumption of validity.’”
It is best, Sutton argued, to let states continue to debate the issue and for courts to get out of the way.
“As a result, federal courts must be vigilant not to ‘substitute’ their views for those of legislatures,” Sutton wrote. “... Given the high stakes of these nascent policy deliberations – the long-term health of children facing gender dysphoria – sound government usually benefits from more rather than less debate, more rather than less input, more rather than less consideration of fair-minded policy approaches. To permit legislatures on one side of the debate to have their say while silencing legislatures on the other side of the debate under the U.S. Constitution does not further these goals.”
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmett, whose office is defending the law, applauded the ruling.
“The case is far from over, but this is a big win,” Skrmett wrote. “The court of appeals lifted the injunction, meaning the law can be fully enforced, and recognized that Tennessee is likely to win the constitutional argument and the case.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Apeyron
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.