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A custody battle between parents who disagree on the gender of their 7-year-old draws attention of Texas politicians

India Hayes/CNN

A Dallas judge has ruled that both parents should have joint custody of a 7-year-old whose gender identity became central to their court battle, which drew attention from politicians across Texas.

The judge’s order came just days after a jury rendered a verdict giving the mother sole conservatorship of the child.

In her ruling, Judge Kim Cooks said a “substantial change in circumstances with child or parent,” warranted her decision to award joint custody.

The child was considered to be male at birth. The mother, pediatrician Anne Georgulas, has argued the child is a transgender girl. The father, Jeffrey Younger, maintains the child is a boy.

CNN is not naming the 7-year-old to protect the child’s privacy.

In 2018, Georgulas filed a lawsuit seeking to modify her custody agreement with Younger. She wanted Younger to affirm the child with a girl’s name inside and outside the home, among other requests essentially forcing the father to embrace the child’s gender expressions. Judge Kim Cooks ultimately denied the request, saying Friday that “the Court finds that the State of Texas has no compelling interest to justify such interference.”

But the judge ruled that Georgulas did not make a request to be appointed sole managing conservator, nor did she make a request to surgically or chemically transition the child’s sex or chemically castrate the child. Younger has previously accused Georgulas of wanting to medically transition the child.

The judge also ruled that “there has been no abuse, neglect, or family violence by either parent,” but she also ordered the father and mother to each attend family counseling with the child and the child’s twin, a boy.

And the judge placed a “permanent injunction” on the parents, preventing them from talking about the case to the media. This essentially shuts down Younger’s efforts to publicize the case by creating a blog and taking part in many media interviews.

The judge ruled that the child “appears comfortable as a male, female, or gender nonspecific.”

The judge’s decision, issued Thursday, means that both parents will have a say in any medical decisions involving their child’s gender.

Governor, senator weigh in

The case became a political flashpoint after Younger started a website about the case, received donations of about $139,000, and allowed media to interview him and the child, court documents say. The website is no longer live.

The case drew reaction from Gov. Greg Abbott and US Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans.

In response to the jury’s Monday decision to grant Georgulas sole custody, Cruz tweeted: “A 7-year-old child doesn’t have the maturity to make profound decisions like this. The state of Texas should protect this child’s right to choose — as an informed, mature person — and not be used as a pawn in a left-wing political agenda.”

Abbott also tweeted that the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services were looking into the case.

A day before the judge issued her ruling, First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate Younger’s claims of abuse.

Marissa Gonzales, a spokesperson with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said the department “has begun investigating the allegations,” responding to the letter sent by the attorney general on Thursday. “

CNN has reached out to both Cruz and Abbott for their reaction to the judge’s ruling on Thursday.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that by around age 2, children typically become aware of physical differences between boys and girls. By 3, most can easily identify themselves as one or the other. By 4, “Most children have a stable sense of their gender identity,” the AAP says on its Healthy Children website.

Judge cites father’s ‘initially valid concerns’

“The Court finds that the Father may have initially had valid concerns regarding his children and the Mother making crucial decisions without his input,” the ruling said.

“However, the Court finds that the Father finds comfort in public controversy and attention surrounded by the use of unfounded facts and is thus motivated by the financial gain of approximately $139,000 he has received at the cost of the protection and privacy of his children.”

Jeffrey Younger, the father, said he thinks it is “more important for the public to know what’s going on with the court than have his child live a private life.”

Lawyers for Georgulas and Younger did not return CNN requests for comment.

The judge’s ruling also said both parents must agree on topics like medication, surgical and psychological treatment. A parenting coordinator was appointed to the family, according to court documents.

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