California mom urges Supreme Court review of custody cases for parents who disagree with their children transitioning genders

(The Center Square) – A California mother who lost her daughter to suicide after transitioning and was removed from her custody for not supporting her gender identity filed an amicus brief urging…

(The Center Square) – A California mother who lost her daughter to suicide after transitioning and was removed from her custody for not supporting her gender identity filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case from another mother in Indiana facing the loss of custody for not supporting her daughter’s gender transition.

Abigail Martinez is a Salvadoran immigrant who raised four children in California, one of whom began questioning her sexuality amid a struggle with depression in high school. School staff told her daughter to join the school’s LGBTQ club, where the mother claims in her amicus brief the school club “persuaded that the only way to be happy was to change her gender,” and that the school psychologist encouraged her daughter to do the same. With a new policy at the school requiring staff to use students’ pronouns and preferred names for students without parental notification or permission, Martinez was not informed of her daughter’s new identity, and feels “the school staff should have helped me, but they became my worst enemy.”

After Martinez’ daughter was hospitalized for attempting suicide, Martinez says the school psychologist told her daughter to accuse her mother of abuse so “she would lose custody and the state would pay for gender-transition treatments without parental consent.” As a result, the California Department of Child and Family Services took her daughter and placed her in a group home, after which a judge ordered Martinez’ daughter be allowed to receive cross-sex hormones to further her transition. While Martinez fought against the allegations of abuse and ultimately was exonerated and removed from the child abuse registry, soon after the court found her to be a fit parent her daughter committed suicide by lying down on tracks in front of an oncoming train. Martinez had sought that her daughter be treated for her underlying depression instead of receiving cross-sex hormones, a lack of treatment that she blames for her daughter’s suicide.

In Indiana, the case of M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana Department of Child Services follows a similar contour: a child was removed from custody of parents nonetheless found “fit” by the state for the parents’ religious beliefs about gender identity and decision not to support the child’s transition. In their case, the parents allege Indiana failed to follow the free exercise clause of the First Amendment by preventing them from raising their child according to their faith, and that Indiana DCS censored the parents’ First Amendment speech rights by limiting what they were allowed to speak about with their child during their limited visitations. 

“When governments usurp the essential role of parents in the lives of their children, tragedy ensues,” said Kayla Toney, Associate Counsel for First Liberty Institute, who is representing Martinez and filed the amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take the Indiana case. “The Constitution ensures that states cannot target parents because of their religious beliefs, interfere with the religious upbringing of their children, or impose prior restraints on speech in their own homes. We hope the Supreme Court will act to prevent state officials from committing any more violations of parental constitutional rights with impunity.”

With Indiana courts upholding DCS’ decisions, the writ of certiorari filed by the parents seeking review by the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court hears the case and rules against Indiana, the result would be to overturn state laws in California, Washington, and Oregon, and court decisions in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois that lead to parents losing custody if they do not seek or affirm gender transition treatments for their child.