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Sixth Circuit Allows Tennessee Ban on Transgender Surgery for Minors to Go Into Effect

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has temporarily reversed a lower court decision, allowing Tennessee’s ban on “gender-affirming care” for children to go into effect while the appeal is pending. This decision comes after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed legislation in March to prohibit sex change operations, cross-sex hormone therapy, and puberty blockers for minors seeking to transition. The ban faced legal challenges from the parents of transgender children and was joined by President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice.

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Court Decision and Implications

A federal district court judge previously ruled the state law unconstitutional, preventing it from taking effect. However, a two-to-one majority of the Sixth Circuit Federal Appeals Court granted Tennessee’s emergency appeal, stating that the state is likely to succeed in appealing the preliminary injunction. The law, which was supposed to take effect on July 1, will now be enforced immediately. It empowers the Tennessee Attorney General to investigate healthcare providers who violate the ban, with potential fines of up to $25,000.

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Judicial Perspective and Responses

The majority opinion argued that policy issues like transgender care should be determined by the legislature rather than the judiciary. Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton, appointed by President George W. Bush, and Judge Amal Thapar, appointed by Donald Trump, joined in the majority decision. The Sixth Circuit’s ruling is the first federal circuit decision allowing a ban on “gender-affirming care” for minors to go into effect.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, advocacy groups, and plaintiffs’ attorneys expressed disappointment and called the decision heartbreaking, vowing to continue challenging the law. On the other hand, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti hailed the decision as a significant win, emphasizing that the case is far from over.

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Appeals Process and Future Outlook

Chief Judge Sutton announced that the court would expedite the appeals process with the goal of resolving the case by September 30. The case, titled Williams v. Skrmetti, is currently in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Both sides are preparing for further legal proceedings to determine the fate of the ban on transgender surgeries for minors in Tennessee.


The temporary reversal by the Sixth Circuit allows Tennessee’s ban on “gender-affirming care” for minors to be enforced while the legal battle continues. The decision highlights the ongoing debate surrounding transgender rights and the role of the judiciary in shaping policy on sensitive issues. The ultimate outcome of the case will have significant implications for the treatment and rights of transgender minors in Tennessee and potentially impact similar laws in other states.

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