Hundreds of people gathered at Washington Square Park in New Orleans on March 31, 2023, for a march to mark Transgender Day of Visibility. Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator
Georgia parents suing Georgia over its law limiting gender-affirming care for transgender minors had their first day in court Wednesday after the law went into effect July 1 and the state’s lawyer argued the judge should allow it months to mount a defense.
The parents want U.S. District Judge Sarah Geraghty to temporarily block the law, which forbids surgery or hormone therapy for transgender minors, while a challenge moves forward.
Transgender activists and supporters say the law targets vulnerable minors, prevents parents from making medical decisions for their children and hamstrings doctors from following best practices. Proponents of the law say it is not discriminatory and is aimed at preventing minors from undergoing procedures they may come to regret in the future.
Wednesday’s hearing was limited to discussion of scheduling a future evidentiary hearing.
Ben Bradshaw, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told the judge their expert witnesses would be available to testify as early as next Thursday.
Georgia Solicitor General Stephen Petrany said the timeline should be “months, not weeks.”
The parents’ complaint was filed Thursday evening and received by Geraghty’s office Friday morning. Petrany said the state will finalize a roster of attorneys to argue the case by Thursday morning, but the July 4 holiday has made that more difficult.
“They took their time getting their suit together, now we need some time,” he said.
In a July 3 court filing, Petrany argued that Gov. Brian Kemp signed the law in March and the plaintiffs waited more than three months to seek emergency relief. He also argued that they should not have standing because none of the families plan to immediately start hormone therapy, rather they are waiting and monitoring their hormone levels.
“Plaintiffs’ own lack of urgency is confirmed by the fact that they waited over three months after the passage of the law to file suit, now including an eleventh-hour request for emergency relief on a breakneck schedule that could have been entirely avoided if they had sued promptly,” the filing reads.
Attorneys for the families said it takes time for families to decide to step up and become plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit regarding a heated topic and for attorneys to gather information from experts to put such a suit together.
Geraghty asked the sides to try to come up with a schedule by Friday morning, and if they cannot agree, she will decide on a schedule. She said she understands the need for swiftness but will also ensure the state has adequate time to prepare.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Beth Littrell, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Georgia’s new statute represents part of a nationwide attack on transgender people, but she said she is encouraged that similar laws have been put on hold in other states.
“There’s certainly a recognition around the country that laws like SB 140 are unconstitutional and cannot be justified by the state,” she said. “And so we’ve seen it in Alabama, Florida, in Kentucky, in Tennessee, across the country, judges have either blocked these laws or struck them down permanently, and we expect that this will be the same.”
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