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Oklahoma asks courts to dismiss lawsuit opposing gender-affirming care, ACLU responds

Protestors at the Oklahoma State Capitol. They were protesting House Bill 2177, a bill that bans gender affirming care for minors and limits it for adults.
Beth Wallis
StateImpact Oklahoma
Protestors at the Oklahoma State Capitol. They were protesting House Bill 2177, a bill that bans gender affirming care for minors and limits it for adults.

Oklahoma has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on gender-affirming care, presenting stories from people who’ve “detransitioned” and citing a need to protect children.

In May, five Oklahoma minors and their families, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the state saying the ban on gender-affirming care was a violation of their equal protections under the law.

The lawsuit was filed just days after Gov. Kevin Still signed the ban on surgery, hormone therapy and other forms of gender-affirming care for minors.

The state filed a motion to dismiss the Poe v. Drummond case late last month, emphasizing a claim that Oklahoma wants to protect minors from the potential side effects of hormone therapies. According to Mayo Clinic, gender-affirming therapies carry risks of heart problems, Type 2 diabetes and infertility, but they ultimately improve psychological well-being and quality of life.

Oklahoma’s case included testimonies of people who’ve “detransitioned” after receiving gender-affirming care and transitioning. Laura Smalts began identifying as a man at the age of 23 in 2007. Smalts blamed trauma from her childhood on her transition, adding her therapist gave her a letter recommending hormone treatments.

Smalts claimed the therapists did not attempt to provide her prior treatment after she denied counseling, telling the physician she was only at the session for the prescription letter. Smalts said she transitioned from her male identity back to her female identity after turning to Christianity.

Zoe Hawes, 24-years old, began her transition at 17. She also noted a lack of therapy and said the only reason she did not receive surgeries is because Hawes could not afford them at the time.

In a response filed by the ACLU on Monday, lawyers argued the state’s interest in protecting minors from making major medical decisions prior to adulthood does not justify the ban, as parents consent to medical treatment for their children.

The response said the state was endorsing the belief that minors will “grow out of,” being transgender, that being better than receiving treatment to alleviate gender dysphoria.

“Encouraging people to be cisgender is not a legitimate state interest; and in fact, there is no evidence it is possible to make someone who is transgender become cisgender,” the ACLU response read.

ACLU lawyers further argued gender-affirming care is well-researched and, like any medical intervention, the potential risks are weighed against the potential benefits and risk of doing nothing.

On the state’s claim the ban can be justified through regret from people who have transitioned, the ACLU said regret of gender-affirming care is extremely rare.

Bans in other states, including Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Indiana and Kentucky, have been temporarily blocked by courts.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond agreed not to enforce Oklahoma’s ban as the case makes its way through court.

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Peggy Dodd was an intern at KOSU during the summer of 2023.
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