News Articles

U.S. High Court allows Idaho ban on gender-affirming care for minors

BP file photo

WASHINGTON (BP) – A law criminalizing gender transition care for minors in Idaho can be applied while two anonymous teenage plaintiffs’ challenge to the law continues in court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 15.

In the meantime, the two plaintiffs in the case can continue to receive such care, which to date has included puberty blockers and estrogen, according to court documents in the case of Labrador v. Poe. But Idaho can otherwise apply the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, passed in 2023, to regulate or prevent various procedures intended to alter the gender of children under the age of 18.

Miles Mullin, vice president and chief of staff for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), applauded the High Court’s ruling.

“This important ruling by the Supreme Court rightfully preserves Idaho’s right to protect its children,” Mullin told Baptist Press. “To be clear, the state has a responsibility to intervene when harm is being done to its citizens – especially its most vulnerable citizens. That is just what Idaho has done. For it must be recognized, that while couched in the language of ‘gender-affirming care,’ these medical and surgical procedures do great, permanent harm to children.

“The ERLC has long maintained that children must not be pawns in the sexual revolution,” Mullin said, “and we will continue to advocate against harmful gender-transition practices even as we also continue to pray for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria.”

The Idaho law was previously on track to take effect this past January but was blocked by the court challenge by the teenage plaintiffs – two biological boys who view themselves as girls – and their parents. The plaintiffs gained a universal injunction against the law in district court, upheld on appeal, but overturned by the High Court.

Idaho is among five states that have criminalized so-called “gender-affirming” or gender transition care for minors, in efforts to protect children from far-reaching harm, including Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Such treatments are banned, though not criminalized, in 19 additional states, according to the Movement Advancement Project, which describes itself as an independent think tank.

“Our culture has increasingly drifted away from biblical views of gender and sexuality and has treated children as subjects of social experimentation” Mullin said, “but we look to the Scriptures for truth. God created us in His image as both male and female (Genesis 1:27).

“The biological distinction between males and females is part of God’s good design for human flourishing. Any policy or practice that runs contrary to that reality – especially an approach that does irreparable harm – should be opposed by Christians.”

The High Court did not rule on the legality of Idaho’s law – as that was not the issue of the state’s appeal – but rather reversed the injunction against its statewide use, allowing the law to become effective while the court challenge proceeds.

“Before us, the state does not challenge the preliminary injunction to the extent it ensures the two minor plaintiffs in this case continued access to their drug treatments. That aspect of the district court’s order will remain in place pending appeal,” the court said. “The state asks us to stay the preliminary injunction only to the extent it bars Idaho from enforcing any aspect of its law against any person anywhere in the state.”

But the district court’s broad injunction defied foundational principles long held by the court in such matters, the court wrote.

“It did not just vindicate the plaintiffs’ access to the drug treatments they sought. It purported to bar the enforcement of ‘any provision’ of the law against anyone,” the opinion reads. “The district court issued this sweeping relief even though, by its own admission, the plaintiffs had failed to ‘engage’ with other provisions of Idaho’s law that don’t presently affect them – including the law’s provisions prohibiting the surgical removal of children’s genitals. … In choosing such an extraordinary remedy, the district court clearly strayed from equity’s traditional bounds.”

Idaho’s district court had sought to pause the law to prevent a flood of lawsuits from others desiring care, National Public Radio reported, while plaintiffs’ lawyers said doctors would be reluctant to risk 10 years’ imprisonment for providing such treatment.