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Tennessee ban on transgender procedures for minors can be enforced: appeals court

Tennessee’s ban on transgender procedures for minors — including puberty blockers and surgery — can be enforced, an appeals court ruled Saturday, overturning a lower court’s ruling. 

The decision from the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati came following an emergency appeal from the state of Tennessee, and after a district court judge ruled late last month that it was unconstitutional because it discriminated on the basis of sex. 

In a split decision, the panel of judges voted 2-1 to temporarily allow the ban to go into effect, saying the issue is better left to the legislature than the judiciary. 

“Given the high stakes of these nascent policy deliberations — the long-term health of children facing gender dysphoria — sound government usually benefits from more rather than less debate,” wrote Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a former President George W. Bush appointee.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti called the ruling a “big win.”

“The case is far from over,” Skrmetti said in a statement, “but this is a big win. The court of appeals lifted the injunction, meaning the law can be fully enforced, and recognized that Tennessee is likely to win the constitutional argument and the case.”

Dissenting Judge Helene White, another Bush appointee, said the law is “likely unconstitutional” as sex discrimination.

The panel will now conduct a full review of the law, which they said they hope to complete by Sept. 30. 

“These initial views, we must acknowledge, are just that: initial,” Sutton wrote. “We may be wrong.”

The ACLU, its Tennessee chapter and two law firms called Saturday’s ruling “beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development.”

Other Republican states like Arkansas and Florida have also enacted similar laws banning transgender care for minors and have faced similar legal challenges.  

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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