Supreme Court to hear major Tennessee transgender case

Supreme Court in Washington DC
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the autumn and issue a decision sometime next year [Reuters]

The US Supreme Court has agreed to review a lawsuit challenging a Tennessee law banning hormone therapy and puberty blockers for children under 18.

It marks the first time the current nine Supreme Court justices will have an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 25 US states have similar laws, some of which have been put on hold by lawsuits.

Three Tennessee transgender teenagers, their parents, and a doctor who provides transgender medications argue the 2023 Tennessee ban violates a US constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law by discriminating on the basis of sex.

The Biden administration, along with a number of major US medical groups, have joined their side in this case.

They claim the law prohibits transgender individuals from accessing drugs and therapies that are available to other adolescents with medical need.

They also argue that the ban is a violation of a parental right to access necessary care for their children.

US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the Biden administration’s top Supreme Court advocate, told the justices in a brief filed last year that the Tennessee law and those like it “inflict profound harm on transgender adolescents and their families” by denying “appropriate and necessary” treatment for a serious medical condition.

She argued that there is uncertainty around the legality of transgender medical bans and that the Supreme Court should step in to settle the dispute.

Lawyers for the state of Tennessee have countered that the transgender law is a reflection of the will of the state’s elected lawmakers and addresses a pressing public concern.

“Tennessee, like many other states, acted to ensure that minors do not receive these treatments until they can fully understand the lifelong consequences or until the science is developed to the point that Tennessee might take a different view of their efficacy,” the state wrote in a brief filed with the Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheld an Idaho ban against transgender medical treatments involving children, although they did not express an opinion on the constitutionality of the statute.

In 2020, a six-justice majority in the court ruled that federal law prohibits discrimination against transgender employees. One of those justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, since has been replaced by Amy Coney Barrett, a more conservative Donald Trump appointee.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in this case, United States v. Skrmetti, in the autumn and issue a decision sometime next year.