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Lambda Legal Sues to Block Louisiana’s Ban on Gender-Affirming Medical Care for Transgender Youth

Lambda Legal, Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School, and a Louisiana law firm represent five Louisiana families.

(NEW ORLEANS, LA — January 8, 2024) Today, five transgender Louisiana youth and their families sued a Louisiana state agency to stop the harm caused by the recently enacted “Health Care Ban” (HB 648), now Act 466, which prohibits the provision of necessary gender-affirming medical care only for minors who are transgender and punishes health care providers for providing such care in Louisiana. 

The law took effect last week on Jan. 1, after the state legislature overrode a veto by former Gov. John Bel Edwards last July. The lawsuit claims the Health Care Ban is unconstitutional under the Louisiana state constitution and that it violates the rights of transgender adolescents and their parents to dignity and equal protection under the law.  

“The Health Care Ban is so upsetting,” plaintiff Max Moe said. “Growing up, I was intensely self-concious of my body, which led to a near-constant state of discomfort. Oftentimes I was incredibly uncomfortable and anxious and even found it hard to talk. However, being able to access gender-affirming hormones and be my true self has been a lifesaver. I am now far more comfortable and confident, and feel less distress. This health care has allowed me to be happy, healthy, and my true authentic self – the boy I know I am. I am terrified of what the Health Care Ban will do and  worry about how my mental health might deteriorate.”

In addition to Max, the plaintiffs suing the state include fellow minors Susie Soe, Daniel Doe, Nia Noe, and Grant Goe, ages 9 to 16, as well as their respective parents and guardians, all identified pseudonymously, who reside throughout the state from Orleans to Terrebonne to Livingston.

“This Health Care Ban only stands to harm Louisiana’s trans youth and their families,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Counsel and Health Care Strategist for Lambda Legal. “The transgender young people we represent, along with hundreds of other minors in the state, are at risk of losing necessary, life-saving medical care just because Louisiana has singled them out for discriminatory treatment. Louisiana has prohibited this medical care only for minors who are transgender, despite it being evidence-based, safe, and effective, and being supported by all major medical organizations. Denying medical care to youth just because they are transgender is both unlawful and inhumane –especially when the same treatments remain available to all other minors. The Health Care Ban represents broad government overreach into the relationship between parents, their children, and their health care providers.”

Trans youth deserve to access health care on the same footing as everyone else,” said Suzanne Davies, Senior Clinical Fellow at the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School and one of the lawyers representing the Plaintiffs. “This new, harmful policy attacks Louisiana youth who suffer from gender dysphoria and whose doctors have determined they require access to gender-affirming care. The Health Care Ban prohibits the only safe and effective treatment available for trans youth, putting their health and wellbeing at great risk. By selectively banning such treatments for trans youth, this law deprives Louisiana adolescents of equal access to medically necessary, and often life-saving care that is effective in treating gender dysphoria and addressing other serious health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation that can occur when gender dysphoria is left untreated.”

According to the lawsuit, the Health Care Ban:

  • Strips parents of their right to direct the health care of their children, including the right to decide, along with qualified health care providers, the best medical treatment for their child;
  • Violates the Louisiana Constitution by unlawfully interfering with the minors’ fundamental right to obtain or reject medical treatment, with the support of their parents and advice of their medical providers; and
  • Violates the Louisiana Constitution’s guarantee to equal protection of the laws by discriminating based on sex and transgender status.

The lawsuit, Soe, et al. v. The Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners, et al. was filed in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, a state court in Louisiana which has jurisdiction over claims filed under the Louisiana Constitution. You can read the complaint here

The Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives voted to override Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of Act 466, the Health Care Ban, on July 18, 2023. Two other vetoes – of the “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” bill and the Pronoun Restriction bill – survived override votes. Act 466 went into effect on January 1, 2024. 

The families are represented by Lambda Legal (Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Paul D. Castillo, and Nicholas J. Hite), Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (Kevin Costello, Maryanne Tomazic, and Suzanne Davies); and Ellie Schilling of the Louisiana law firm Schonekas, Evans, McGoey & McEachin, LLC.

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