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ACLU of Indiana files lawsuit to halt gender-affirming care ban before it takes effect

A sign is leaned against a marble pillar in the Indiana Statehouse, next to the elevators. It reads, "Stop trying to erase me" with the word "erase" underlined and a transgender pride flag drawn underneath it. The marble flooring reflects some of the sign.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
At the end of the ACLU's Rally To Protect Trans Youth on Saturday, April 1, a protester left a sign reading "Stop trying to erase me" with a transgender pride flag next to the elevators inside the Indiana Statehouse.

The ACLU of Indiana has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to halt Indiana’s gender-affirming care ban for transgender youth before it takes effect July 1. Their legal arguments rest on constitutional violations and equal protections for transgender Americans.

Gender-affirming care is health care that encompasses mental, social, medical and surgical care designed to treat gender dysphoria.

SEA 480 bans gender-affirming surgeries, which aren’t provided to minors in Indiana, and medicinal gender-affirming care – like hormone therapy and puberty blockers. Those treatments are far more common and lawmakers behind the measure repeated misinformation about them, calling them “irreversible” and “harmful.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the measure into law Wednesday.

Ken Falk is the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director. He said Indiana’s gender-affirming care ban violates the 14th Amendment, because it discriminates on the basis of sex, it discriminates against transgender youth and it violates the equal protections clause.

“The legislature did not ban the various treatments that are outlined. It only banned it for transgender persons,” Falk said.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld employment protections for transgender people in a 2020 decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.

READ MORE: Holcomb signs gender-affirming care ban for trans youth into law

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The ACLU is representing care providers, transgender youth and their parents in a class action lawsuit.

“This is a dangerous law, this is a cruel law, this is a law we hope to enjoin,” Falk said.

The law would also force transgender youth who are already receiving medicinal gender-affirming care to de-transition by the end of 2023.

Beth Clawson is the parent of a transgender daughter, who began living as a girl seven years ago. She said the looming threat of this legislation has taken a toll on her daughter.

“A lot of times she comes home and she’s like, what is the point of this word problem when the actual problem is that people don’t listen to me and don’t believe me and don’t think I should be here,” Clawson said.

Ryan Welch echoed Clawson’s experience. He said his son has started to slip back into isolation, anxiety and depression that dramatically improved after receiving treatment, including hormone therapy.

“To purposely take that away from him, and to force him back into very, very dark times? It’s cruel,” Welch said. “And it’s unbelievable that we’re even having to fight this.”

READ MORE: What is gender-affirming care?

Dr. Catherine Bast provides gender-affirming care in their practice for adolescents and adults. Under the law, they wouldn’t be able to refer patients to out-of-state providers. Bast could also be subject to civil litigation, medical licensing board discipline and enforcement action brought by the Indiana attorney general.

“If we are unable to provide this care, that’s going to be devastating to us as providers who know and see the life-saving nature of this medically necessary, life-saving care,” Bast said.

The lawsuit itself was filed in federal court on April 5. Falk said the ACLU plans to file a motion for injunction – which would halt the law from taking effect until the lawsuit was settled – by the end of the week.

The audio associated with this story has been updated.

Lauren is our digital editor. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

Lauren is the digital editor for our statewide collaboration, and is based in Indianapolis at WFYI. Since starting for IPB News in 2016, she's covered everything from protests and COVID-19 to esports and policy. She's a proud Ball State University alumna and grew up on the west side of Indianapolis.