Texas Supreme Court questions Gov. Abbott’s authority to order investigations into parents of transgender children — but allows abuse probes to continue

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during the Houston Region Business Coalition’s monthly meeting on October 27, 2021 in Houston, Texas.Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

  • The Texas Supreme Court reversed an injunction that directed the state from conducting investigations into the use of gender-affirming care for transgender children.

  • Still, the court found that Gov. Greg Abbott did not have the authority to order the investigations.

  • Abbott ordered state’s family services agency to conduct investigations in Feburary.

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday reversed an injunction that barred the state from conducting investigations into the use of gender-affirming care for transgender children as child abuse — even as it found that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t have the authority to order the investigations in the first place.

The court found that neither Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton nor Gov. Greg Abbott could direct the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to conduct investigations into gender-transitioning procedures.

However, the Republican justices still allowed the investigations to move forward by throwing out a lower court ruling.

In its ruling, Texas’ high court said, “Just as the Governor lacks authority to issue a binding ‘directive’ to DFPS, the court of appeals lacks authority to afford statewide relief to nonparties.”

The court continued: “The Governor and the Attorney General were certainly well within their rights to state their legal and policy views on this topic, but DFPS was not compelled by law to follow them.”

In Feburary, Abbott, a Republican, ordered the state’s family services agency to conduct investigations into parents who authorize gender-affirming care for transgender children.

The move came after after Paxton, also a Republican, issued a formal opinion stating that providing gender-affirming medical treatments like puberty blockers and gender-reassignment surgery to youth is “child abuse” under state law.


In a letter to the state’s family services agency, Abbott cited Paxton’s opinion, saying that “a number of so-called ‘sex change’ procedures constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.”

Abbott noted in the letter that licensed professionals like doctors, nurses, and teachers may face criminal penalties “for failure to report such child abuse.”

A Texas appeals court later temporarily blocked the state from investigating the parents of transgender children.

“The court of appeals abused its discretion by using Rule 29.3 to issue a statewide order,” the Texas Supreme Court said in its ruling on Friday.

Following Abbott’s order, the family of a 16-year-old transgender girl that was being investigated by the state brought a lawsuit against Texas.

“Today’s decision is a win for our clients and the rule of law,” the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal, who represents the family, said in a statement on Friday.

“The Texas Supreme Court made clear that the attorney general and governor do not have the authority to order DFPS to take any action against families that support their children by providing them with the highest standards of medical care.”

Though the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s investigations into the use of gender-affirming care for transgender children could continue, it put the state’s investigation into the family of the 16-year-old on hold.


The organizations representing the family said: “The court rejected the attorney general’s arguments that our lawsuit should be dismissed and affirmed that DFPS is not required to follow the governor’s directive or the attorney general’s non-binding opinion.”

“Though the court limited its order to the [plaintiffs], it reaffirmed that Texas law has not changed and no mandatory reporter or DFPS employee is required to take any action based on the governor’s directive and attorney general opinion,” they said.

Paxton also viewed the ruling as a win.

“Just secured a win for families against the gender ideology of doctors, big pharma, clinics trying to ‘trans’ confused, innocent children,” Paxton said in a tweet. “SCOTX green-lighted investigations that lower Dem courts froze ‘Transing’ kids through surgery/drugs is abuse & I’ll do all I can to stop it.”

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