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The Unconstitutionality of SB 14

Susanna Prieto

Edited by Hiba Soban, Colin Crawford, Vedanth Ramabhadran


Senate Bill 14 has been ruled unconstitutional by District Judges. This legislation is intended to prevent transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming healthcare. SB 14 will impact current and future transgender minors [1]. Texas houses one of the most populous trans communities in America, around 30,000 of which are teenagers [2]. Repealing SB 14 will help to support the young transgender community in Texas, as well as protect them from legal discrimination. 

This bill, passed during the 88th Session of the Texas legislature, prohibits “certain children” from receiving treatments and procedures for gender reassignment, gender transitioning, or gender dysphoria [1]. More specifically, doctors are banned from conducting gender-affirming surgeries, prescribing puberty blockers, or administering hormone replacement therapy. Any doctor who performs these procedures will have their medical license revoked. Additionally, this law prohibits public money from going to any persons or entities that provide or assist with these procedures. [1]. 

Because SB 14 is directly targeting those who identify as transgender, it is important to understand where such anti-transgender attitudes originated from.  The bill emerged during a period of rising anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation across the US, with a total of 507 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills proposed in 2023 [3]. Many of these bills are directed at the transgender community: barring access to public facilities, precluding trans women from participating in gendered sports competitions in schools, and prohibiting instruction and discussion of gender identity in the classroom [4]. SB 14 is aligned with the Republican Party of Texas’s 2022 Platform, in which they resolve to oppose any action that validates the transgender identity [5]. 

To better understand SB 14 and its negative impacts, a deeper examination of the groups this law will affect is required. People who identify as transgender often seek gender-affirming healthcare to affirm and support their gender identity.  For a transgender man, this may include testosterone injections, chest masculinization, and/ or phalloplasty. A transgender woman may desire estrogen injections, breast augmentation, and/ or vaginoplasty. Transgender youth also benefit from puberty blockers, as they help to stop the development of unwanted characteristics. All of these treatments are banned for transgender youth under SB 14 [1]. 

This law violates both the Texas Constitution and the Federal Constitution.  A Texas District Judge, Maria Cantú Hexsel, ruled against the implementation of SB 14. Hexsel asserts that this legislation is in direct violation of three different clauses of the Texas Constitution, as it will discriminate against transgender youth, violate the rights of parents to provide for the wellbeing of their children, and violate the rights of health care professionals to provide services per best-practice care standards [6]. As Hexsel explains, this is discrimination because a cisgender teen may legally receive these surgeries while transgender teens are prohibited [6].  For example, someone who is of the female sex and female gender identity may receive a breast augmentation as a minor with parental consent, while this same procedure is illegal for a young transgender woman. A similar law in Arkansas was found to be unconstitutional by a federal district court, as it violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses [7]. The law was struck down and permanently enjoined. Legislation banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth has also been blocked by federal courts in Indiana due to unconstitutionality [8]. 

Banning gender-affirming healthcare promotes increased violence towards transgender people and poses a safety risk to transgender youth, causing fear of increased discrimination against their children as a result of banning gender-affirming healthcare [9]. Anti-trans legislation creates an environment that marginalizes and devalues their existence. Such legislation often portrays trans people as a threat or a problem to be solved, which can fuel negative sentiments and potentially lead to violence [10]. Furthermore, these policies can contribute to a broader, structural set of actions aimed at reducing the number of trans people or removing them from society altogether. Anti-trans ideologies, which frame trans individuals as threats, can lead to violent impacts, as explained by an examination of discriminatory legal patterns against trangender persons [10]. Mainstream policy agendas often attack the social, legal, and institutional infrastructure that trans people depend on, such as limiting or banning access to trans-affirming healthcare, which can be seen as a form of violence against trans individuals. SB 14 frames transness as a toxified, invasive threat [10]. These measures are often justified as protecting children from supposed harm. However, they not only restrict access to trans healthcare but also stigmatize it.

This legislation has been argued to be unconstitutional, on both the state and federal level. Violating multiple amendments, this legislation has been blocked in many states; the same should occur in Texas. Lack of access to gender-affirming care also leads to decreased mental health and decreased happiness levels for transgender youth, as they do not feel aligned with their gender identity. When transgender individuals are given access to gender-affirming care, their quality of life greatly improves. This legislation also promotes violence and legal discrimination towards this community as a whole. The law intends to prevent transgender youth from expressing their gender identity, marginalizing this community. SB 14 has the potential to increase discrimination and increase threats against young transgender individuals.

 

[1]Texas Legislature Online - 88(R) History for SB 14, https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/history.aspx?LegSess=88R&Bill=SB14 (last visited Apr 10, 2024).

[2]Loyal | thisisloyal.com, How Many Adults and Youth Identify as Transgender in the United States?, Williams Institute, https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/trans-adults-united-states/ (last visited Apr 10, 2024).

[3]Mapping Attacks on LGBTQ Rights in U.S. State Legislatures in 2024, American Civil Liberties Union, https://www.aclu.org/legislative-attacks-on-lgbtq-rights-2024 (last visited Apr 10, 2024).

[4]29 Cardozo J. Equal Rts. & Soc. Just. 155 (2022-2023) Queer Liberation's Long March towards Equality: How LGBTQIA+ Advocates May Seek to Combat the Rise of Anti-LGBTQIA+ State-Level Legislation and Substantiate Broader Lasting Legal Protections in a Post-Bostock World, Villano, Davis J. [ 40 pages, 155 to 194 ]

[5]Matt Patrick & Linda Nuttall, Platform and Resolutions as Amended and Adopted by the 2022 State Convention of the Republican Party of Texas.

[6]Lazaro Loe, et al., v. The State of Texas, et al. In the District Court of Travis County, Texas. 201st Judicial District. Case No. D-1-GN-003616 (2023).

[7]Brandt v. Rutledge, 4:21CV00450 JM (E.D. Ark. Jun. 20, 2023)

[8]K.C. v. THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE MEDICAL LICENSING BOARD OF INDIANA, et al, No. 1:2023cv00595 - Document 67 (S.D. Ind. 2023)

[9]Kacie M. Kidd et al., “This Could Mean Death for My Child”: Parent Perspectives On Laws Banning Gender-Affirming Care for Transgender Adolescents, 68 J Adolesc Health 1082 (2021).

[10]Leah Owen, “Parasitically Occupying Bodies”: Exploring Toxifying Securitization in Anti-Trans and Genocidal Ideologies, 34 Peace Review 481 (2022).

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