Judge strikes down Louisiana gerrymander; Another court rules against Texas transgender “child abuse” directive
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U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled last Monday that the Republican-controlled Legislature illegally packed Black voters into the Second Congressional District, then split the remaining Black voters among the remaining five districts. According to state demographics and population growth over the past decade, the Legislature should have drawn a second majority Black district in which the community could elect their candidate of choice, Dick found.
The Court finds that Plaintiffs have established that the Black Voting Age Population (BVAP) is “sufficiently large … to constitute a majority” in a second-majority minority congressional district in Louisiana.
Dick ordered the Legislature to draw a new map this month “that is compliant with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.” Given that the Supreme Court ordered Wisconsin to redraw congressional maps with 139 days remaining until primary elections, Dick reasoned that her order coming more than 150 days before Louisiana’s primary would be more than enough time for the state to enact constitutional maps.
The Republican Legislature appealed to the 5th Circuit, but a three-judge panel—made up of a Trump appointee, an Obama appointee, and a Reagan appointee—declined to issue a stay of Dick’s decision.
The defendants also urge us to stay the district court’s order to give the Louisiana Legislature more time to enact a remedial plan. But they have not explained why they cannot enact a new plan in the time that the district court allotted, so we will not stay the injunction on that ground.
However, the appellate court will allow the state to argue the case before a different panel during the first week of July. “At this preliminary, non-merits stage, the defendants have merely fallen short of carrying their burden. That said, neither the plaintiffs’ arguments nor the district court’s analysis is entirely watertight,” the judges wrote. This leaves the case in limbo: the Legislature will likely be summoned to a special session to consider new maps before the end of the month, but the 5th Circuit may still allow the gerrymandered map to be used in the 2022 elections.
Gender affirming care
Texas “child abuse” investigation
An Austin judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing Texas from investigating hundreds of families of transgender children who have received gender-confirming medical care.
The lawsuit, filed by nonprofit advocacy group PFLAG, its roughly 600 members, and three families with transgender children, argued that “Governor Abbott’s letter instructing [the Department of Family and Protective Services] to investigate the families of transgender children is entirely without constitutional or statutory authority”.
According to the lawsuit, a 16-year-old transgender boy—referred to as Antonio in court documents—tried to kill himself the same day that Abbott issued the child abuse directive. Instead of getting the help he needed, staff at the outpatient psychiatric facility reported his mother, Mirabel, for “child abuse” under Abbott’s policy.
On March 11, an investigator from CPS visited the family’s home to interview Antonio and Mirabel. Mirabel assumed the investigator was there for the suicide attempt. But the investigator told her that she was only there because Mirabel was an “alleged perpetrator” of child abuse as the parent of a transgender adolescent who had been reported for allegedly providing her son with treatment for gender dysphoria…The investigator interviewed both Antonio and Mirabel and asked them private, intimate, and invasive questions about Antonio’s medical treatment for gender dysphoria.
Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer ruled Friday that “there is sufficient reason to believe that the plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable injury if the commissioner and the (Department of Family and Protective Services) are allowed to continue to implement and enforce this new Department rule that equates gender affirming care with child abuse.”
Gender reassignment surgery
A federal court ruled last week that a Georgia sheriff’s office was illegally discriminating when it denied insurance coverage to one of its investigators for gender reassignment surgery.
Houston County Sheriff’s Office employee Anne Lange, a transgender woman, began her gender transition in 2017 after she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Lange informed the Sheriff’s Office of her intention to live openly as a woman in 2018. The sheriff responded by ridiculing her decision:
During that meeting, Lange requested permission from Sheriff Talton to wear a female uniform at work and present herself as a female in the office. In response, Sheriff Talton looked at [Director of Personnel for Houston County Kenneth] Carter and said, “[w]hat the hell is he talking about?” Carter then explained to Sheriff Talton that “what Sergeant Lange is trying to tell you is that she would like to start presenting herself as a woman and she wants you to understand that.” Sheriff Talton initially thought Lange’s revelation was a joke. Sheriff Talton then told Lange that he doesn’t “believe in sex changes.”
The County Commissioners voted “unanimously” to exclude gender confirmation surgery from its health insurance policy in 2019 and denied Lange’s appeal.
U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell (Obama appointee) found it is undisputed that Lange’s surgery was “medically necessary” and questioned whether the County is actually concerned about cost…or just wants to discriminate against Lange.
Certainly, the County now professes concern about costs, but that argument is undercut by the undisputed fact that the County built its cost defense after the fact. And the Exclusion impacts only transgender individuals—that provides some circumstantial evidence of intentional discrimination.
Ultimately, Treadwell ruled that excluding gender reassignment surgery from the county’s health insurance plan is “discriminatory and thus violates Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It should be noted that the county spent roughly five times as much money fighting the lawsuit as it would have cost to cover Lange’s surgery.
- Related: “Judge: NC health plan must cover transgender treatments,” The News & Observer