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Oklahoma Federal Judge Upholds Ban on Medical Care for Transgender Youth

A federal judge in Tulsa has chosen not to block a new law in Oklahoma that criminalizes health care workers providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender youth. The law, passed by Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Governor Kevin Stitt in May, makes it a felony to administer treatments like puberty-blocking drugs or hormones to individuals under 18.

The plaintiffs, which include a medical provider and family members of transgender children in Oklahoma, sought a preliminary injunction to stop the law from taking effect. However, U.S. District Court Judge John Heil III denied their motion, stating that the plaintiffs had not proven that parents have a fundamental right to choose this type of medical care for their children.

Heil acknowledged that this is a complex medical and policy issue, and that the Oklahoma Legislature has a rational basis for caution before allowing irreversible medical treatments for children. The law will now be fully enforced, ending the previous agreement between the plaintiffs and Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s office, which had put enforcement on hold.

Under the law, there is a six-month transition period for minors who were already receiving puberty-blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones. This period will come to an end early next month.

The plaintiffs, represented by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Oklahoma, Lambda Legal, and the law firm Jenner & Block LLP, expressed their disappointment with the judge’s decision and vowed to appeal. They argue that denying transgender youth the necessary medical care causes significant harm.

Oklahoma is not alone in passing a law that restricts or bans gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. At least 22 other states face similar lawsuits challenging these laws. In June, a federal judge declared Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care unconstitutional, becoming the first ruling to overturn such a prohibition. Arkansas has appealed the decision, and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted their request to have the full court hear the case.

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