Conservative group sues Washington over law to protect trans youth in crisis 

By: - August 16, 2023 6:04 pm

The transgender flag. Getty Images.

A conservative legal organization run by Stephen Miller, previously a senior adviser in the Trump White House, is suing Washington state to challenge a new law meant to protect transgender youth experiencing homelessness or fleeing difficult family situations.  

America First Legal filed the lawsuit Wednesday over Senate Bill 5599, which allows shelters to notify state authorities instead of parents when a young person seeks refuge to pursue gender-affirming care or reproductive health services. Lawmakers approved the measure earlier this year and it took effect in July.   

The group filed the suit on behalf of eight Washington parents and two nonprofit groups that oppose gender-affirming care for children – International Partners for Ethical Care, Inc. and Advocates Protecting Children.

The lawsuit aims to stop enforcement of SB 5599, arguing the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. 

It says the statute “deprives certain parents—but not all parents—of their fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution to direct the care and upbringing of their children, as well as their rights to the free exercise of religion, due process, free speech, and equal protection.” 

Miller, in a statement, said his group is “leading the courtroom charge against radical transgenderism and the sexual exploitation of our children by militant gender activists.” He added: “No state action more frighteningly illustrates the threat to our children than this law.”

SB 5599 incensed conservatives, who say it’s an attack on parental rights. The lawsuit from Miller’s group comes after a failed campaign known as “Reject 5599” that would have placed the issue in front of voters this fall through a referendum. 

State Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, who sponsored SB 5599, previously told the Standard that the law is addressing a crisis that already exists, as many young people refuse offers of shelter or leave it to avoid parental notification. 

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 37% of transgender people in Washington state had, at that time, experienced homelessness at some point. A survey from the Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ advocacy group, found 16% of LGBTQ+ youth have run away from home and 55% of those youth ran away due to mistreatment or fear of mistreatment due to their LGBTQ+ identity. 

Wednesday’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. 

One of the other lawyers for the plaintiffs is Joel Ard, who has been involved in past challenges to Washington state laws, including on issues like pandemic restrictions and vehicle registration taxes.

Wednesday’s suit names Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Furguson, and Ross Hunter, the secretary of the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families, as defendants, all in their capacities as state officials.

Mike Faulk, a spokesperson for Inslee’s office, said legal counsel would review the filing. “The lawsuit appears to be based on the same basic falsehoods that anti-trans groups have been pushing since the law was proposed,” he added. “The purpose of the bill is to keep youth safe and off the streets.”

This story has been updated with a comment from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. 

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng joined the Washington State Standard shortly after graduating from Northwestern University in June 2023. Grace, who currently lives in Tacoma, is a local Washingtonian who was born and raised in Snohomish County. She has previous experience covering statehouse politics and policy for the Minnesota Reformer and the USA TODAY Ohio Network, which includes the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Akron-Beacon Journal.