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New court ruling lets Kentucky’s gender-affirming care ban take effect

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Kentucky’s ban on gender-affirming hormone therapy for transgender minors takes effect immediately. That’s because a judge decided Friday pause the injunction that temporarily blocked the law.

The same federal judge who temporarily blocked Kentucky’s ban on gender-affirming hormone therapy reversed course on Friday.

This story briefly mentions suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by phone at 988, or online at https://988lifeline.org/.

If you’re looking for transgender peer support, you can reach the Transgender Wellness Coalition online at transwellnesscoalition.org. You can also contact the Trevor Project, which provides free, confidential counselors who specialize in helping LGBTQ youth.

U.S. District Judge David Hale issued an injunction on June 28 that prevented part of Kentucky’s Senate Bill 150 from taking effect while a broader lawsuit challenging its constitutionality continues.

However, on Friday, Hale granted Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s request to pause that injunction until a future ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Hale cited a ruling last week by that same appeals court, which lifted an injunction against a similar ban on gender-affirming care in Tennessee.

The appeals court found the plaintiffs challenging Tennessee’s ban are unlikely to succeed in that case. By extension, Hale said in Friday’s decision, Kentucky’s plaintiffs “are unlikely to succeed on appeal.”

Right now, the action in the Tennessee and Kentucky cases is over whether the states’ respective laws should be paused indefinitely while their legality is debated in court.

The ACLU of Kentucky represents the transgender children and their parents who sued over Kentucky’s ban. The organization emphasized that Friday’s ruling is only in effect while an appeal in the case is pending.

“It is not the final word, and we remain optimistic that with a full briefing we will achieve a positive result,” the ACLU’s legal director, Corey Shapiro, said in a statement.

Cameron, a Republican running for governor in November, celebrated Friday’s decision as “a win for parents and children.”

“Moving forward, my office will continue to defend Senate Bill 150 and stand up for the right of children to be children,” he said in a statement.

Kentucky’s now-effective ban prohibits doctors from providing estrogen or testosterone treatments, as well as medication that delays puberty, to transgender minors for the purposes of affirming their gender. The law does not prohibit doctors from providing those same medications to children for other reasons.

Many major medical associations say gender-affirming hormone therapy should remain accessible to transgender youth. They also say such treatments are only provided after consultations between the child, their parents and their health care providers.

SB 150 requires doctors to discontinue gender-affirming hormone therapy for current patients under 18 years old.

Three Kentucky doctors told LPM News earlier this year that discontinuing such treatments could endanger those patients’ mental health, with one saying it would cause them to experience distressing changes to their bodies.

Similar sentiments have been publicly expressed by doctors in other states where lawmakers have passed gender-affirming care bans this year.

Research shows trans people who've received gender-affirming care have seen reductions in suicidal thoughts and in depression. And national surveys indicate young trans and nonbinary people experience suicidal thoughts at especially high rates.

This was story was updated.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

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News KentuckyLGBTQ+ EquityYouth Reporting
Morgan is LPM's health reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.