A federal judge in Georgia has allowed the state’s ban on gender transition care for minors to go back into full effect, after a federal appeals court panel allowed a similar law in Alabama to be enforced. Before the appellate ruling, the same judge, Sarah Geraghty, had granted a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocked part of the Georgia ban.
Background: The ban initially went into effect on July 1
In her initial ruling, Judge Geraghty sided with the plaintiffs — the families of four transgender children in Georgia — who were challenging the law, and said that the ban was “substantially likely to violate the Equal Protection Clause.”
Georgia’s ban prohibits doctors from providing gender transition surgery or hormone therapy to people under the age of 18. The law took effect on July 1, but on Aug. 20, Judge Geraghty blocked the part of the law that governs hormone therapy.
The next day, a three-judge federal appellate panel in the 11th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Georgia, Alabama and Florida, said that a district court judge in Alabama had erred in partly blocking enforcement of Alabama’s law banning hormone treatments and puberty blockers for transgender young people. The panel allowed the Alabama law to take effect.
That ruling prompted the lawyers representing the state in the Georgia case, along with the state attorney general, Chris Carr, a Republican, to ask Judge Geraghty to reconsider her temporary block.
In her new ruling on Tuesday, Judge Geraghty said that it was “undisputed” that the injunction she issued last month rested on “legal grounds that have been squarely rejected” by the appeals panel in the Alabama case.
Why It Matters: The latest decision undoes an earlier success for transgender rights advocates
The measure in Georgia is part of a national wave of laws restricting medical care for transgender minors that have been passed by Republican-controlled legislatures. At least 19 states have passed bans or restrictions on transition care for young people in 2023 alone.
Court challenges have been filed in more than half the states that have passed such bans. Trial judges issued a series of rulings like those in Georgia and Alabama over the summer, temporarily blocking the laws while the court challenges proceed. But some of those rulings have since been reversed.
A federal appellate panel in the Sixth Circuit threw out an injunction last month that had temporarily blocked Tennessee’s ban from taking effect. That decision prompted a federal judge in Kentucky, which is also covered by the Sixth Circuit, to suspend a similar injunction in that state.
Earlier this year, a federal judge in Arkansas overturned the nation’s first law banning transition care.
What’s Next: More uncertainty
Judge Geraghty put her original ruling on hold, rather than vacating it entirely, because of the possibility of a rehearing in the Alabama case. The lawyers representing the plaintiffs in Alabama said they planned to request that the entire court hear the case, rather than just the panel. They have until Sept. 11 to file a petition to do so.
In Georgia, the legal challenge to the state’s ban can continue to move forward in court, but the ban will be in effect while it does. The law allows minors who were already receiving hormone therapy before July 1 to continue their treatment, and it allows doctors to prescribe puberty blocking medications to minors.
It was not immediately clear how the appellate decision concerning Alabama would affect Florida. A federal judge there ruled narrowly on a challenge to a similar ban, telling the state it could not enforce parts of the law against the families who sued to challenge it.