Supreme Court Allows Puberty Blocker Ban to Stay in Place for Now

( – Idaho lawmakers passed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act in May 2023. The measure banned several medical procedures and practices that potentially placed the state’s “vulnerable children” at risk. Two transgender girls and their parents filed a federal lawsuit and obtained a temporary order barring the enforcement of the statute. However, the US Supreme Court recently ruled to allow the law to remain in place while court challenges play out.

On April 15, the US Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Labrador v. Poe, paving the way for Idaho officials to enforce the law while the district court considered the original civil complaint. The SCOTUS held that the lower court’s ruling arbitrarily blocked the enforcement of 20+ measures codified in the new statute that protected Idaho children from potentially “risky and dangerous medical procedures.” Therefore, the justices limited the temporary restraining order to only apply to the original plaintiffs in the case. In other words, the nation’s highest court ruled that state officials could start enforcing the new law against anyone else in Idaho.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion elaborating on the majority’s ruling. He explained that the lower court’s “universal injunction” barring Idaho officials from enforcing the law “effectively transformed” the dispute between a limited number of parties into a far-reaching “referendum on the law’s every provision” by applying it statewide. He applauded the court’s ruling, noting that it took a “significant step” toward addressing overly broad restrictions imposed on states by the courts.

The plaintiffs filed the original lawsuit shortly after lawmakers passed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act. The district court approved their motion for a temporary injunction barring enforcement of the law.

Idaho Attorney General Raúl R. Labrador (R) filed an appeal to the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, but a three-judge panel denied his request in late January, and a week later, the full court rejected his motion.

Labrador filed an emergency application for a stay with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. She subsequently referred the case to the full court. Five of the court’s conservative justices voted to approve the application, but the panel’s three liberals rejected it. Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t indicate how he voted.

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