87th LegislatureJudicialAbbott, DFPS Sued A Second Time for Abuse Investigations Into Child Gender Modification Procedures

For a second time, Governor Greg Abbott and the DFPS have been sued for treating gender modification procedures as child abuse.
June 8, 2022
For a second time, Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) have been sued for treating gender modification procedures as child abuse.

Advocacy group PFLAG joined three Texas families in a lawsuit filed in Travis County today.

Brian Bond, the group’s executive director, announced the lawsuit in a press release.

“For nearly 50 years, PFLAG parents have united against government efforts to harm their LGBTQ+ kids. By going after trans kids and their families, Gov. Abbott has picked a fight with thousands of families in Texas and across the country who are united as members of PFLAG National,” Bond said.

“Loving and affirming your child and empowering them to be themselves is the highest calling of any parent, no matter your child’s gender. If it takes a court ruling to ensure that the law protects families who lead with love in support of transgender Texans, so be it.”

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The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the state’s new protocol of treating these procedures as child abuse violates the law. It also seeks a court order to block DFPS investigations into families that allow or pursue these procedures for their children.

DFPS is the Texas agency in charge of investigating child abuse. In February, Abbott told the agency to start investigating gender modification as child abuse, supported by an official opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that said current Texas law already considers these procedures to be abusive.

Abbott and DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters were sued shortly thereafter by a child psychologist and a DFPS employee with a transgender child. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court of Texas, which said DFPS has the discretion to investigate these procedures but observed that Abbott does not have authority over the agency’s investigations.

Notably, swathes of the new PFLAG lawsuit directly copy the language of the prior lawsuit, which was aided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The PFLAG lawsuit argues that DFPS technically started operating under a new rule when it began treating formerly acceptable procedures as child abuse. By adopting a new protocol without going through the official rule change process, PFLAG claims, the agency violated the law.

“The DFPS Statement prescribes a new DFPS rule and enforcement policy with respect to the investigation of gender-affirming care to minors as child abuse, which changes DFPS policy and constitutes a rule for purposes of the [Administrative Procedure Act],” the lawsuit reads.

This law authorizes suits to challenge the validity of agency rules if they threaten the legal rights of the plaintiff.

Under state law, a “rule” means a state agency statement that “implements, interprets, or prescribes law or policy.”

Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that DFPS would still be exceeding its authority even if it had passed an official rule instead of merely changing its interpretation of Texas child abuse law. They argue that the new DFPS protocol conflicts with the agency’s enabling statute, which tasks the agency with providing family support that respects “the fundamental right of parents to control the education and upbringing of their children.”

All three families named as plaintiffs in the suit include transgender children, each claiming to have been affected by the Governor’s directive.

The lawsuit says one of the children attempted suicide on the day Abbott issued his letter due to the political environment and “being misgendered at school.”

Several unsuccessful bills filed in the Texas legislature would have explicitly changed the state’s definition of child abuse to include puberty blockers, supraphysiologic doses of opposite sex hormones, and transition surgeries as abuse.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.