Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Judge Amy Clark Meachum in court on Friday

A Texas judge has extended an order to prevent state officials from investigating allegations of so-called "abuse" against parents seeking gender-transitioning care for their children.

In February, officials declared some gender reassignment therapies "child abuse" under state law.

Parents allowing them, could lose custody of their children under a directive from the Republican governor.

A district judge temporarily halted the plan Friday.

Judge Amy Clark Meachum ruled that the directive from Governor Greg Abbott violated the Texas state constitution.

As a result, investigations into parents currently under way are to stop, pending a trial into the matter.

The Texas attorney general's office filed a notice of intent to overturn Judge Meachum's ruling.

A trial challenging the directive is due to take place in July.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sued Mr Abbott over the directive he had said was to prevent "child abuse".

LGBTQ rights advocates say the governor's directive unfairly criminalises transgender children and their families - and that the proposal to investigate them appears politically motivated, as part of Mr Abbott's gubernatorial re-election campaign this year.

The directive had also urged teachers, doctors, and healthcare professionals to report any "suspected abuse", or face criminal penalties.

Proponents of the directive say children are too young to make life-altering decisions about their bodies.

However, medical experts in Texas say transgender surgical procedures are performed very rarely if ever on minors in the state. Treatment and therapies mainly consist of hormonal treatment (such as reversible puberty blockers) and social transitioning (such as mental health counselling).

They say that this kind of legislation only seeks to further discriminate and isolate trans youth - a population which already experiences disproportionate rates of suicide.

Judge Meachum's order on Friday would stop nine investigations currently being carried out against families of transgender children, according to the Texas Tribune.

Amber Briggle, a Texas mother of a trans teen son, was informed that her family was under investigation in late February. In a statement posted to her blog, Ms Briggle said she felt Texas was "attempting to rip our family apart because we love our children unconditionally".

"When we were notified of the allegations, it was as if the wind had been knocked out of us," she wrote. "Raising a transgender child in Texas has been one long political emergency. It always seemed like this day would come."

Dozens of states are considering similar laws targeting trans youth. This week, Idaho lawmakers passed a similar bill that would make providing gender-transition care a felony with a life sentence. Parents could also be prosecuted if they leave the state to seek treatment for their children elsewhere.

During the State of the Union, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.