Austin Wants to Be a ‘Sanctuary’ City for Families of Trans Kids in Texas

The state capital of Texas is squaring off against the state Capitol of Texas over the civil rights of transgender kids and their families. 
austin-transgender-sanctuary-city-texas
LGBTQ rights supporters gather at the Texas State Capitol on September 20, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

The state capital of Texas is squaring off against the state Capitol of Texas over the civil rights of transgender kids and their families. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler proclaimed Wednesday as “Transgender Youth and Family Safety Day” and said that his city, the fourth-largest in Texas, would be a “sanctuary” for trans families under attack due to the state’s new policy ordering investigations of families of transitioning transgender kids for child abuse. 

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“Austin should be considered a safe place, a sanctuary, for transgender children and their families,” Adler said Wednesday.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza vowed not to prosecute such cases, calling the order “unconstitutional & discriminatory” and saying his office “will not interfere with the medical decisions made between children, parents and their medical physicians.”

“Our community vehemently opposes Texas state leadership’s efforts to limit the rights of our LGBTQ+ communities and their toxic, transphobic policies,” Adler said. “Austin is a magical city built on inclusion. We are proud that this position, integral to our culture and core values, has been longstanding and both consistently and loudly expressed in our words and our actions.”

Austin’s proclamation comes in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s order last month directing the state Department of Family and Protective Services “to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” a reference to children who are transitioning. 

Texas potentially stands to lose more than $1 billion in federal funding as a result of Abbott’s order, as the Biden administration issued guidance last week saying “denials of health care based on gender identity” are “illegal.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration Wednesday, saying “the federal government does not have the authority to govern the medical profession and set family policies, including what may constitute child abuse in state family law courts.”

An Austin judge issued a stay last week, blocking the investigation of one Travis County family for child abuse, and will hear arguments tomorrow as to whether the policy itself should be blocked. An appellate court sided with the Travis County family Wednesday.  

Since Abbott issued his order last month, however, at least five Texas families have reportedly been investigated for child abuse, according to activist Amber Briggle.  Briggle, the mother of a transgender child and a city council candidate in Denton, confirmed this week that she and her husband were under investigation due to the new policy and that her family’s home had been inspected by a caseworker. 

“Raising a transgender child in Texas has been one long political emergency,” Briggle wrote in a blog post. “It always seemed like this day would come. Now it has arrived.”

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