BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota judge has ruled that he won’t immediately block the state’s ban on gender-affirming health care for minors, delivering an early setback to families who want the new law found unconstitutional.
District Judge Jackson Lofgren on Monday denied a temporary restraining order the plaintiffs had requested. They’ve also asked for a preliminary injunction that would temporarily block enforcement of the law as their case proceeds. A hearing is set for January for that request.
“We’re disappointed in this ruling, but we are confident that when all the evidence has been presented, the court will ultimately find that ending the health care ban permanently is the only just, equitable, and constitutional resolution,” said Brittany Stewart of Gender Justice, the lead attorney for the three families and pediatrician who are suing.
Lofgren cited the plaintiffs’ “nearly five-month delay” in filing their complaint, and their argument hinging “upon inclusion in a protected class not previously recognized by the North Dakota Supreme Court or a new application of state constitutional principles.”
Under the law, it is a felony for a health care provider to perform gender-affirmation surgery on a minor, and a misdemeanor to prescribe or give hormone treatments or puberty blockers to a child.
Supporters of the ban argue that it protects children from what they say are irreversible effects of treatments and surgeries. Opponents contend that the ban will harm transgender youth, who are at a greater risk of depression, self-harm and suicide, and that no one had been performing such surgeries in North Dakota.
Lawmakers included a grandfather clause for children who were receiving treatments before Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed the bill into law in April. But providers view that clause as vague and aren’t risking it, according to Stewart. The families have been traveling out of state to get gender-affirming care for their children.
North Dakota is among roughly two dozen states with Republican-led legislatures that have passed similar bans on gender-affirming care for children in recent years, sparking numerous lawsuits that continue to play out.
Enforcement of all or part of similar care bans have been put on hold by judges while cases play out in Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana and Montana. In Florida, a court has allowed enforcement generally — but not for those who challenged the ban. Judges initially paused enforcement in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee, but federal appeals courts have allowed it to move ahead.