California Legal Course Urges Custody Attorneys To Push Puberty Blockers for Kids

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September 26, 2023

Custody attorneys for gender-confused adolescents should push parents into accepting puberty blockers because their children can't function properly without them, according to a continuing legal education course sponsored by a California bar association.

The training, titled "Gender and Transgender Issues in Custody Matters" and hosted by the Contra Costa County Bar Association, is aimed at the attorneys, known as minor's counsel, handling custody disputes in which one parent of a gender-confused child supports transitioning and the other does not. It was offered as part of a day-long course in October 2022 to satisfy California's legal training requirements. The video recording is one of 12 on-demand courses for minor's counsel offered by Attorney's Briefcase, Inc., a library of online options for attorneys who need to satisfy the state's education mandates.

"There may be a situation where this custody case comes up because the kid needs blockers right now, and so in that situation I would encourage you as minor's counsel to say, 'Hey, can we get [puberty] blockers started and then we can kind of sort things out?'" said Asaf Orr, who co-presented the training in his role as leader of the Transgender Youth Project. Since then, he has taken the role of assistant chief counsel at the California Civil Rights Department.

"Because you're not going to get an accurate read of the child's mental health and functioning without that," Orr added. "And your client is just going to deteriorate."

The training, video of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, offers a front-row seat to how activists harness California family law to push gender transitions on children. Last week, Democratic governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill pushed by Democrats that would have compelled custody judges to favor "affirming" parents regardless of the age or mental state of the child.

The course looks more like advocacy than legal education, said Dan Morenoff, executive director of the American Civil Rights Project.

"When a speaker fails to peg-back their position to actual law and instead tells an audience solely what they would suggest doing as a matter of policy, it raises real questions about how that presentation got bar approval as a qualifying [continuing legal education] activity," Morenoff said. "The California bar has applicable standards and, unless I'm missing something, it's hard to see how straight advocacy for a particular substantive approach to a medical issue meets them."

Orr served as legal director at U.C. San Francisco's pediatric gender clinic, which transitions children as young as three years old and whose top leader claims there are an "infinite" number of genders. He is no longer at the clinic, according to his current employer, the California Civil Rights Department. Puberty blockers have not been federally approved for gender transitions; they halt sexual development and can lead to permanent sexual dysfunction while hindering bone growth. Their long-term effects on the brain aren't known, but some experts worry they may permanently change neurodevelopment. In the presentation, Orr characterized puberty blockers as "fully reversible" and a "pause button."

Orr's co-presenter on the training was Superior Court judge Joni Hiramoto, who has presided over California custody disputes involving gender-confused kids. In at least one case, Hiramoto permanently separated a father from his minor son because the father did not support medically transitioning him.

Hiramoto acknowledged in the presentation that she is personally invested in the topic because her own child came out as transgender at age 23.

When asked what judges should look for "in deciding whether and how much contact to allow between a minor who wishes to transition and a parent in opposition," Orr said they should evaluate that parent's willingness to change.

"I think it's really critical for the parent to recognize that their actions have been harmful, and if they're willing to change their behavior, I think it's really critical that [the children] have those bonds with their parents," Orr said. "But if a parent is refusing to act consistent with the standards of care and what the providers are recommending, then I think that's really difficult."

Hiramoto, meanwhile, said attorneys should urge judges to grant legal custody to the affirming parents.

"I think as minor's counsel what you have to do is put together a plan that makes sense for the judge, and you may want to say, 'OK, this is a pro-transition approach,'" Hiramoto said. "But I think it's better and a little bit more sophisticated to say, 'This is the parent who should be given the decisions in this area, because this is the parent who supports the approach that I think is in the child's best interest.'"

This legal training isn't the first time Orr and Hiramoto have crossed paths professionally.

Hiramoto in 2020 adjudicated a child custody divorce case in which she barred Ted Hudacko, a Bay Area father, from seeing his then-16-year-old, trans-identifying son except in a supervised "therapeutic" setting with his son's consent. The reason was that Hudacko did not agree to the son's medical transition. Hiramoto's order stated that while Hudacko's son could pursue hormone therapy at the U.C. San Francisco gender clinic, he could not seek surgical procedures until he was 18 without both parents' consent or another order from the court.

Less than a year later, according to records obtained by the Free Beacon, Orr in his role as legal director for the U.C. San Francisco Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic helped Hudacko's minor son obtain a surgical implant of puberty blockers as well as estrogen. Hudacko objected to this intervention, citing studies that show a double dose of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones sterilizes minors and can lead to long-term psychological harm and sexual impairment. Hudacko was ultimately overruled.

Orr and U.C. San Francisco's gender clinic did not respond to requests for comment. A representative for the California Civil Rights Department, where Orr works, referred the Free Beacon to the Contra Costa Bar Association, which did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the court at which Hiramoto presides as judge said that neither the court nor Hiramoto "is ethically permitted to comment on this matter."

Orr was lead author on "Schools in Transition: A Guide to Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools," produced by the Human Rights Campaign. The guide instructs teachers how to transition kids behind their parents' back and offers templates for a school "transition plan" for gender-confused students.