And significantly, the opinion also denied that Gov. Greg Abbott had any legal authority or power to order DFPS to investigate these families in the first place.
In March, a district court judge in Austin blocked the state from enforcing Abbott’s directive by issuing a temporary injunction. The judge said Abbott’s order was “beyond the scope of his authority and unconstitutional,” and a trial was set for July.
The state immediately challenged the statewide freeze on investigations but lost at Texas’ Third District Court of Appeals. While the appeals process continues to play out on the merits of the case, the question of whether the state could continue investigations during the legal battle made its way to the high court, prompting Friday’s opinion.
In the new ruling, the Texas Supreme Court also argued that Abbott’s directive to DFPS “cites no legal authority” and doesn’t legally bind DFPS to follow his directive, unlike some of his other executive orders. The court, in its opinion, also affirmed that Paxton’s opinion does not alter pre-existing law or legal obligations of DFPS.
“The State does not contend in this Court that the Governor’s letter formally changed the legal obligations of DFPS, of parents in Texas, or of medical professionals in Texas. Nor does it contend that the Attorney General’s opinion did so,” the opinion states.
If DFPS decides to resume investigations of families other than the Doe family, then “it’s still our position to do so would be unlawful,” Paul Castillo, senior counsel at Lambda Legal who represents the Doe family, told CNN on Friday.
The parties in the Doe lawsuit are set to make their arguments before the appellate court this month and in June, according to Castillo.
DFPS is reviewing the ruling and has “no immediate comment beyond that,” said spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales.
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed two bills into law targeting transgender youth in the state, including one that restricts access to gender-affirming health care for minors.