A lawsuit challenging North Dakota’s law criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors has been initiated by families and a pediatrician. This lawsuit marks the latest legal action against similar bans in multiple states.
Gender Justice, during a news conference at the state Capitol in Bismarck, announced the state district court lawsuit. Filed against the state attorney general and state’s attorneys of three counties, the suit aims to immediately halt the ban, which went into effect in April, and have it declared unconstitutional with enforcement cessation.
Christina Sambor, an attorney and North Dakota state director at Gender Justice, stated that state lawmakers have prohibited essential healthcare for transgender children, stripped parents of their right to make healthcare decisions for their children, and criminalized doctors who provide potentially life-saving care.
The bill implementing the ban passed overwhelmingly in North Dakota’s Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year, and Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed it into law in April, with immediate effect.
Tate Dolney, a 12-year-old transgender boy and plaintiff, emphasized how gender-affirming care has boosted his confidence, happiness, school performance, and relationships. He expressed his disappointment that lawmakers who have banned this healthcare want to take it away from him and other transgender and nonbinary children.
The law includes a grandfather clause for minors already receiving gender-affirming care and allows treatment for “a minor born with a medically verifiable genetic disorder of sex development.” However, the vague language of the law has deterred providers from offering such care.
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley has yet to review the lawsuit but stated that his office will evaluate it accordingly.
Bill Tveit, the bill’s sponsor and Republican state Rep., brought forth the legislation to protect children. He mentioned speaking to individuals who expressed regret about their gender-affirming surgeries but declined to identify them.
North Dakota’s law classifies doctors’ performance of sex reassignment surgeries on minors as a felony, carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. It also includes a misdemeanor charge for health care providers prescribing or administering hormone treatments or puberty blockers to minors, with a punishment of nearly a year’s imprisonment and a $3,000 fine.
Opponents argue that sex reassignment surgeries are not performed on minors in North Dakota, and the ban on gender-affirming care endangers transgender youth, who already face an increased risk of depression, suicide, and self-harm.
At present, at least 22 states have enacted laws restricting or prohibiting gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and most of these states are facing legal challenges. A federal judge declared Arkansas’ ban unconstitutional, and another federal judge temporarily blocked Indiana’s ban.