HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Trans Sex Equality Rights After Dobbs

Marc Spindelman (Ohio State University), Trans Sex Equality Rights After Dobbs, 172 U. Pa. L. Rev. (2023):

In L.W. v. Skrmetti, a divided Sixth Circuit panel gave Tennessee the green light to start enforcing its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Central to that decision, since extended to cover a companion case, was the panel’s distinctive vision of what Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization means for trans people’s constitutional sex equality rights. This brief essay examines that vision and explains why it’s deficient in the face of Dobbs’ insistent promises that it’s a ruling limited to abortion rights. By its own terms, Dobbs announces no authoritative deviation from established legal protections for other constitutional rights, including LGBTQIA+ peoples’ rights, and, more specifically, trans people’s sex equality rights. Beyond being duty-bound to follow Dobbs’ promises—emphasizing abortion’s uniqueness as key to Dobbs’ self-limitations—lower courts should affirm Dobbs’ line-drawing as an exercise seeking to preserve the Court’s institutional legitimacy and the American public’s faith in the rule of law. Dobbs effectively instructs it’s up to the Supreme Court—not lower courts—to decide whether to honor or abandon Dobbs’ promises, including in the Fourteenth Amendment sex equality setting involving trans sex equality rights.

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