Federal judge hears oral arguments on gender care ban for Idaho’s trans youth

Preliminary injunction for Poe v. Labrador would prevent House Bill 71 from being enforced until the lawsuit is settled

By: - November 6, 2023 5:28 pm
Justice scales, law books and a wooden gavel

Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Monday heard oral arguments for and against a preliminary injunction for House Bill 71, a bill that criminalizes gender-affirming care for youth in Idaho. (Getty Images)

Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Monday heard oral arguments for and against a preliminary injunction for House Bill 71, a bill that criminalizes gender-affirming care for youth in Idaho.

The hearing was held at the James A. McClure Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Boise. 

Before it was signed into law in April, the legislation evoked rallies in front of the Idaho State Capitol and led to an influx of emails and calls to the governor’s office. It is set to go into effect at the beginning of January. 

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If it takes effect, the law would make it a felony for medical providers to give minors puberty blockers or hormone treatments for gender dysphoria. The bill also makes it illegal to perform gender-affirming surgeries to minors, even though those are not performed in Idaho, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported. Medical providers could face a penalty up to 10 years in prison for breaking the law.

Winmill said at the hearing that this case is difficult because it involves the right to privacy and parental rights. 

There is no timeline for when the court will have a response to the motion for a preliminary injunction, but American Civil Liberties Union attorney Li Nowlin-Sohl told the Sun that their legal team’s hope is that they will have an answer before January. 

Plaintiff’s attorneys argue law is discriminatory, undermines parental rights

First, Nowlin-Sohl said that the law is unconstitutional because it undermines parental rights.

“It is parents, not legislators, that should decide whether the treatment is wrong for their children,” Nowlin-Sohl said. 

Second, she said the law violates the right to equal protection, because it discriminates on the basis of transgender status and sex. 

While hormone therapy is used to treat cisgender patients with health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, she said the law imposes differential treatment to a transgender person because the law is specific to people facing gender dysphoria.

Third, Nowlin-Sohl cited guidelines for treating gender dysphoria from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, adding that these guidelines are widely accepted in the medical community.

She also refuted the state’s claims that gender dysphoria could be solved with psychotherapy, adding that there is no evidence that psychotherapy alone helps gender dysphoria. 

“This speculation is not evidence,” she said. “The state is taking away the only evidence-based treatment for gender dysphoria, which doesn’t protect children, but harms them.”

Defendants argue that risks of gender-affirming care outweigh benefits

John Ramer, a special deputy attorney general and attorney with Cooper & Kirk, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, argued that the health risks of gender-affirming care outweigh the benefits for people experiencing gender-dysphoria. 

Citing public health information from Europe, Ramer argued that psychotherapy presents a less risky alternative.

“Psychotherapy could provide the same benefits, and the risk is ‘vastly different’ in terms of the harm a patient would experience,” he said. 

Ramer also rebutted the plaintiffs’ claims that the law discriminates based on sex, noting that the law targets medical preventions for minors without looking at sex. 

Likewise, he said the law does not discriminate on transgender status since it regulates medical and surgical treatments for a specific psychiatric diagnosis – gender dysphoria– which he said is not the same as transgender status. 

Families of Idaho transgender teens filed lawsuit after 2023 legislative session

The lawsuit, Poe v. Labrador, was filed on May 31 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Idaho, Wrest Collective, and others. 

Families of transgender teen girls sue over Idaho’s ban on gender care for youth

It was filed on behalf of two Idaho families whose children are transgender and receive gender affirming care. The families are using the surnames Poe and Doe to protect their identity. 

Plaintiff Jane Doe, a 16-year-old transgender girl, said in a press release that her path to receiving gender-affirming care has been a lengthy process, one she navigated with the support and guidance of her parents and medical professionals

“It’s shocking to have politicians take those decisions away from us,” Doe said. “Trans people like myself deserve the same chance at safety and liberty as everyone else, but this law specifically targets us and our health care for no good reason. I’m 16 – I should be hanging out with my friends and planning my future instead of fighting my state for the health care I need.”

Poe v. Labrador is one of two lawsuits pertaining to the transgender community that arose after the 2023 legislative session. 

The other lawsuit, Roe v. Critchfield, was filed in July to stop a law meant to prevent transgender students from using school restrooms and facilities that correspond with their gender identity. 


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Mia Maldonado
Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d'Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and international political economy.