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Oklahoma judge upholds gender-affirming care ban for minors, ACLU to appeal

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’s ban on gender-affirming care will be allowed to go into effect after a Tulsa federal judge ruled the ACLU’s challenge to SB 613 would likely fail. The ACLU of Oklahoma is planning to appeal.

U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III denied a request from an ACLU of Oklahoma lawsuit to prevent a gender-affirming care ban for minors from going into effect. He wrote in his opinion the ban is rationally related to the state's interests by regulating parent’s decision-making to protect children, public health and the integrity of the medical profession.

Heil also responded to an equal protection claim in the suit, which included five Oklahoma families with trans youth.

The ACLU said the law is discriminatory because it relies on sex to determine who can access medical care. Heil says the use of terms like “sex’ and “gender” in the ban is not intended to discriminate, but to reflect the nature of the procedure.

He ruled the ACLU failed to show it would likely prevail on their constitutional claims.

“This (is) an area in which medical and policy debate is unfolding, and the Oklahoma Legislature can rationally take the side of caution before permitting irreversible medical treatments of its children,” the opinion reads.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a news release he was in favor of the court’s decision.

“I am pleased with the court's decision to uphold Oklahoma's common sense law protecting children from dangerous, permanent sex change surgeries,” Stitt said in the news release. “Here in Oklahoma, we protect our kids. Plain and simple."

Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant), a co-author of the law, also approved of the court’s decision.

“We will not turn a blind eye to this atrocity being fabricated on our kids. You cannot cure confusion with a knife but they sure can make a lot of money from it,” Bullard said in a news release. “When we get to the root of the problem, it is always about money and not about what is best for kids. Today, Oklahoma kids won.”

The ACLU said in a news release this is a devastating result for transgender youth and families, and it will continue to defend its clients and Oklahoma youth.

“Denying transgender youth equality before the law and needlessly withholding the necessary medical care their families and their doctors know is right for them has caused and will continue to cause serious harm. But this is not the end,” the ACLU said in the release. “We are appealing this decision that is completely out of step with all other federal trial courts and that ignores the overwhelming evidence that gender-affirming medical care is safe and effective evidence-based care.”

Freedom Oklahoma, an Oklahoma 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy organization, also decried the ruling and said it will continue to work for a future where equity is realized.

“Every trans person deserves access to equitable, affirming, best practice medical care, without arbitrary political barriers and discrimination implemented by politicians at the expense of the people they claim to represent,” Freedom Oklahoma said in a Twitter statement.

SB 613 was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May, banning gender-affirming care for people under 18. It was paused by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond amid litigation from the ACLU of Oklahoma, meaning youth could still access it in the interim.

StateImpact’s Jillian Taylor recently spoke with a trans teen in Oklahoma and advocates in favor of gender-affirming care for minors about the impacts of this bill coming into effect. You can read that here.

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Jillian Taylor has been StateImpact Oklahoma's health reporter since August 2023.
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