Media Contact

Ariella Sult,

April 5, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Indiana today filed a lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as a doctor and health care clinic, challenging an Indiana law that prohibits health care professionals from providing or even referring transgender young people for medically necessary health care. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that Senate Bill 480 violates the U.S. Constitution on multiple fronts, including the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In addition, the lawsuit claims that the law violates the federal requirements of the Medicaid Act and the Affordable Care Act, because it prohibits essential medical services that would otherwise be authorized and reimbursed by Medicaid. 

“This law would be devastating to trans youth and their families, causing them serious injuries and forcing those who can, to uproot their lives and leave the state to access the gender-affirming care they need,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “Gender-affirming care is life-saving care for our clients, and they’re terrified of what will happen if this law is allowed to take effect. No child should be cut off from the medical care they need or denied their fundamental right to be themselves — but this law would do both. We’re suing to stop this cruel and unconstitutional law from taking effect and inflicting further harm on these children and their families.” 

The plaintiff families will be denied the gender-affirming care their children are currently receiving if Senate Bill 480 is allowed to take effect. Under the new law, trans youth already receiving gender-affirming health care as of July 1, 2023 will be forced to lose access to such care after six months. Youth not receiving medical care by July 1, 2023 will be unable to begin receiving care in Indiana. 

Two of the parent-plaintiffs, Beth and Nathanial Clawson, note that their plaintiff daughter, currently 10 years old, is fearful about what will happen to her if she cannot get gender-affirming medical care when puberty begins. 

“Starting around the age of two years old, our daughter began telling us who she is. When she was three and a half years old, after researching gender dysphoria and consulting with both her therapist and pediatrician, she socially transitioned. That means we started using she/her pronouns and letting her dress as a girl. That was seven years ago, and she hasn’t wavered at all in knowing who she is,” said Beth Clawson. “As her parents, the most important thing to us is that she knows that we love her, trust her, and will do whatever it takes to ensure that she has every opportunity to grow and develop as her true self regardless of her gender identity. Laws that ban her ability to access gender affirming care take that opportunity away from her,” added Nathaniel Clawson. 

Dr. Catherine Bast with Mosaic Health and Healing Arts is also challenging the law on behalf of herself and her patients because it impairs her ability to treat transgender patients with gender dysphoria with medically necessary health care or even refer them to other providers for treatment. Every major medical association supports treating transgender youth with gender-affirming medical care and opposed Senate Bill 480 because it runs counter to science and medicine and will cause severe harm to transgender young people, their families, and all those who love them. 

“At Mosaic, we know that gender affirming care saves lives. Studies show that when gender dysphoria is treated with gender affirming care, the risk of self-harming behaviors, including suicide, diminishes,” said Mixhi Marquis, executive director of Mosaic Health and Healing Arts. “When politicians require us to deny essential lifesaving care, they ignore science and instead mandate harm and endanger lives. To our gender diverse community, we see you, we stand with you and we know the gifts you bring to the world because we experience them every day.” 

Today’s lawsuit is one of many legal challenges in response to a record-setting year of legislative attacks on transgender people, particularly transgender youth, across the country.  

“We are honored to fight alongside these plaintiff families and medical providers to challenge this unconstitutional and illegal intrusion into the rights of adolescents, their parents and the medical providers who care for them,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “As we have seen across the country, these laws do not stand up when tested in court. This care is well-studied and widely accepted. And we know as trans people who have benefited from this treatment that stripping it away from us only causes harm and does nothing to protect children.” 

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Indiana and ACLU National.