The Dallas Court of Appeals temporarily stayed an order requiring two of UT Southwestern’s top executives to answer questions under oath about recent changes to its program for transgender youth.
The reprieve is a significant victory for UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel Podolsky and the hospitals CEO, Dr. John Warner, who have been taken to court by the doctor who ran the program known as Genecis . Dallas’ Fifth Court of Appeals three-judge panel, made up of two Democrats and one Republican, did not give a reason for granting the stay.
Dr. Ximena Lopez, who ran the Genecis program until last year, can fight the stay. His lawyer declined to comment on the appeals court’s decision. UT Southwestern also did not comment, citing outstanding legal issues, and referred The Dallas Morning News to an earlier statement about the Genecis program.
Lopez sued her employer in March.
Although she did not sue UT Southwestern, which jointly ran Genecis with Children’s Health, Lopez’s petition is likely a precursor to litigation. She wants Podolsky and Warner to explain under oath why changes were made to the program in November. That’s when hospitals took Genecis’ branding off the web and started referring new teenage transgender patients seeking certain treatments, like puberty suppressants and hormone therapy, to external service providers.
Existing patients can still access these treatments, and hospitals continue to provide mental health care for new child and adolescent patients struggling with gender dysphoria. In its 2020 literature on Genecis, UT Southwestern hailed it as the “first and largest” program of its kind in the Southwest.
Individualized, age-appropriate care for minors with gender dysphoria is supported by all major state and national physician groups, including the American and Texas medical associations.
The changes at Genecis have drawn scrutiny from sources inside and outside of hospitals. About 200 faculty, students and community activists gathered at UT Southwestern on International Transgender Awareness Day last month to protest the decision, and a national LGBTQ rights group lowered the equality rating of the hospital.
Since the changes at Genecis, Lopez says more than 100 patients seeking medical treatment have been referred elsewhere. During a hearing in April, Lopez said hospital leaders told her someone in Gov. Greg Abbott’s office pressured them to make the changes.
Lopez argues in her petition that the changes at Genecis are discriminatory. Lawyers for UT Southwestern reject his argument and say that Podolsky and Warner, as employees of a state university, enjoy government immunity from lawsuits like this.
While the hospitals cited “media attention and political and scientific controversy” in their decision to stop some treatments for new young transgender patients, Podolsky and Warner also told the court that no “third party” entity or no one “made or directed” them to make these changes.
“After last year’s legislative hearings brought further scrutiny to our care, the GENECIS brand became a lightning rod for controversy over hormone therapy for gender dysphoria, and we made the joint decision to remove the brand so that we can care for our patients in a more environmentally protective way,” UT Southwestern and Children’s Heath said in a joint statement March 28. “However, we have concluded that without some changes in our provision of these treatments , we risked the possibility of having to shut down our program altogether and catalyze action that would lead to their statewide banning.
The issue of gender-affirming care for trans youth has been the source of fierce political fights in recent times.
Last year, conservative state lawmakers in Texas tried, but failed, to ban gender-affirming medical treatments like those offered at Genecis. Then in February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion classifying them as child abuse. Abbott, citing this opinion, ordered child protective services to investigate any allegations of young people undergoing such treatment.
The state has opened at least nine investigations. Inquiries are pending as the parents of a transgender teenager fight to end the policy in court.