Judge blocks ban on hormone replacement therapy for transgender minors in Georgia

ATLANTA– A federal judge has blocked the state of Georgia from enforcing part of a new law banning doctors from starting hormone therapy for transgender people under the age of 18.

In a ruling issued Sunday, US District Court Judge Sarah Geraghty granted an injunction requested by several transgender children, parents and a community organization in a lawsuit challenging the ban.

“The immediate risk of irreparable harm to plaintiffs resulting from the ban — including the risk of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts — outweighs any harm the state will incur as a result of the injunction,” the judge wrote .

Geraghty said her ruling will block enforcement of the hormone replacement therapy ban pending another court order or trial.

“We are disappointed with the judge's decision and plan to appeal immediately to protect the health and welfare of Georgia's children,” said Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.

Georgia's law, Senate Bill 140, allows doctors to prescribe anti-puberty drugs and allows minors who are already on hormone therapy to continue.

However, it prohibits all new patients under the age of 18 from starting hormone therapy. It also bans most gender-affirming surgeries for transgender people under the age of 18. It came into force on July 1st.

Geraghty's verdict was an “incredible victory for Georgia families,” the plaintiffs' attorneys said in a statement. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the O'Melveny Law Firm & Myers are representing the plaintiffs.

“This law uncompromisingly targets transgender minors and denies them basic health care,” they said. “The ruling restores parents' rights to make medical decisions that are in their child's best interests, including hormone therapy for their transgender children when it is necessary for their well-being and health.”

At least 22 states have now enacted laws restricting or prohibiting gender-specific medical care for transgender minors, and most of those states are facing lawsuits. A federal judge ruled the ban unconstitutional in Arkansas, and federal judges have also temporarily blocked bans in Alabama and Indiana.

Plaintiffs in the Georgia lawsuit did not seek the immediate lifting of the ban on operations, which remains in effect.

Doctors usually guide children into therapy or voice training well in advance of any medical procedure.

At this point, puberty blockers and other hormone treatments are far more common than surgery. They have been available in the US for more than a decade and are among the standard treatments endorsed by major medical organizations including the American Medical Association.

During two days of hearings earlier this month, Geraghty heard conflicting statements about the safety and usefulness of hormone therapy to treat adolescents with gender dysphoria – the distress caused when people's gender expression doesn't match their gender identity.

Family experts said the benefits of gender-sensitive care for young people are well documented and profound. State government experts have raised concerns about the risks of hormone treatment and the quality of studies showing its effectiveness.

In her ruling, Geraghty said state health agency witnesses set the bar very high for demonstrating the benefits of hormone therapy and low for demonstrating the risks of hormone therapy. She pointed out that experts agree that prolonged use of puberty blockers is harmful to health and not advisable.

For the transgender children in the lawsuit, “time is of the essence,” she wrote, and SB 140 could cause them to experience enhanced gender dysphoria and unwanted and irreversible puberty.


Denise Lavoie, Associated Press legal officer of Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.

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