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Judge blocks Texas attorney general’s demands for LGBT group’s records

FILE PHOTO: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to anti-abortion supporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court following arguments over a challenge to a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Ho

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) – PFLAG, a leading U.S. LGBTQ advocacy group, on Friday won a temporary restraining order blocking demands from Texas’ Republican attorney general for information about the group’s work with families of transgender minors seeking gender-affirming treatments, such as puberty blockers and hormones.

The order, which will remain in effect for at least two weeks, from Travis County District Court Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel came in a lawsuit PFLAG filed Wednesday against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Hexsel set a hearing for March 25 on whether to block Paxton’s demands for as long as the case is pending.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents PFLAG, said it was grateful for the ruling. Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

PFLAG is also a plaintiff, along with several families of transgender adolescents, in lawsuits challenging Texas’ ban on gender-affirming care for minors and a rule requiring the state’s child protection agency to investigate families seeking such care.

PFLAG won preliminary orders blocking enforcement of the policies in both cases, which Paxton’s office is appealing to the state’s Supreme Court. The gender-affirming care ban has been allowed to take effect during the appeal, while investigations of families remain blocked for now.

Paxton’s office on Feb. 9 demanded information from PFLAG about its communications concerning families’ plans to access gender-affirming care, saying they were part of an investigation into possible violations of the state’s consumer protection laws. The demand letters, which are attached to the lawsuit, did not elaborate on exactly how the consumer protection law might be violated.

PFLAG said the demands were actually an effort to get around an automatic pause on discovery in the earlier lawsuits.

It said the demands would violate its rights of free speech and free assembly under the U.S. Constitution, and could expose the identities of patients and families who have sought information about gender-affirming care.

Hexsel in Friday’s order said PFLAG would suffer irreparable harm, including “gross invasions” of privacy, unless Paxton was barred from “abusing” the consumer protection law.

Texas is one of more than 20 Republican-led states that have sought to restrict gender-affirming care for minors. Many of the bans have prompted legal challenges, and courts have been divided on whether to allow them to go into effect.

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