WASHINGTON — The Texas attorney general’s latest lawsuit against the Biden administration challenges its new opinion that the Texas policy targeting gender-affirming care for minors may violate federal law. That policy has triggered state investigations into parents of transgender children. It was exactly what one Texas family feared.

What You Need To Know

  • The Rey family recently relocated from Austin, Texas, to the Washington, D.C. area 

  • Leon Rey, 9, is transgender. His mother, Camille Rey, last year protested proposed legislation that would have prohibited some gender-affirming medical procedures in Texas 

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently issued a non-binding opinion stating that certain gender-affirming procedures constitute child abuse under state law

  • A short time later, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive mandating the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigate parents of transgender children who allow them to undergo those procedures 

Leon Rey enjoys what many 9-year-olds do. When Capital Tonight first met him last spring, he was playing with the family dog, Ivan, and jumping on the trampoline in the backyard of his Austin home. But during that time last year, he was worrying a lot more than you'd expect a kid to. He was getting distracted at school because of what was happening at the state legislature.

“They just don't have a lot of empathy for some people that are just different, but they're still human. And if you're human, you shouldn't treat others differently,” Leon said.

His mother, Camille Rey, said Leon is transgender. Camille Rey protested at the Texas State Capitol during the last legislative session against one proposed piece of legislation aimed at stopping certain medical treatments for transgender minors, such as hormones or puberty blockers. She also spoke out against a slew of other bills affecting transgender youth, and it was not the first time the Republican-led legislature introduced such measures.

The family decided they did not feel welcome in their home state of Texas any longer. So, after six generations of Camille Rey’s family living in Texas, they moved to the Washington, D.C. area.

It turns out Leon loves the seasons. He listed off his favorite winter activities, from skiing to ice skating. He still plays with Ivan in the backyard and continues his piano lessons. He said he feels a lot better now, too.

“I'm really happy now. Because, like, the laws are better here,” Leon said. “The laws protect me here.”

“I didn't really want him to grow up in a place where he felt persecuted in any way,” she said.  “We've all just been a little more relaxed, that that's like a subject that we don't even have to deal with. And what makes me the happiest is that I just see him being a kid. And he's just enjoying life. And that's the way I want it.

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered medical professionals to report any gender-confirming care of minors as child abuse.

Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration this week to overturn guidance issued by a federal health agency that said Texas’ new policy may violate the Affordable Care Act. Texas could stand to lose more than a billion dollars in federal funding.

“The federal government does not have the authority to govern the medical profession and set family policies, including what may constitute child abuse in state family law courts,” Paxton said in a statement. “It is time for the Biden Administration to quit forcing their political agenda. This is about the safety of children. It is time to put their well-being first.”

Camille Rey said families of transgender children are following best medical practices and doing what they can to keep their kids healthy and “alive, frankly.”

“That is unfathomable and that is exactly why we left and it is horrifying to me that that's what's happening now. I’m reading posts from people that I was protesting with last year. Some of them are moving. Some of them are getting lawyers,” Rey said. “I can't imagine being there right now and living in fear that Child Protective Services is going to come knocking on my door saying that I'm under investigation for child abuse, that they are looking into taking Leon away from me.”

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services argue the directive is discriminatory and say they are exploring options to take care of kids and their families. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has also encouraged families to contact the Office for Civil Rights if they feel they are being targeted by a child welfare investigation.

Leon said his mother was the first to know about his gender identity and said she accepted him immediately.

“I feel like I can be safe at home and know that she will take care of me,” Leon said.

A feeling of safety for a family that no longer chooses to make Texas their home.