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California Mom Who Lost Daughter to Suicide Over Gender Issues Urges Supreme Court to Protect Parental Rights

November 30, 2023

California Mom Who Lost Daughter to Suicide Over Gender Issues Urges Supreme Court to Protect Parental Rights
First Liberty Institute files friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Abigail Martinez in M.C. and J.C. v Indiana Department of Child Services.


Washington, DC—First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of Abigail Martinez, in support of M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, a pivotal parental rights case that is seeking Supreme Court review of Indiana’s decision to remove a child from the home of Christian parents because of their religious beliefs about sexuality.

In California, Martinez lost custody of her teenager Yaeli because of her religious beliefs about sexuality, and then lost Yaeli to suicide a few years later. School officials brainwashed Yaeli so that she would be placed in a group home, and a judge ruled that she could receive cross-sex hormones, going against Martinez’ express wishes that her daughter receive the treatment she needed for underlying depression instead.

You can read the brief here.

“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. “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.”

Abigail Martinez is a mother from southern California, who lost her daughter Yaeli Galdamez to suicide in September 2019. Ms. Martinez is a devout Christian who immigrated from El Salvador as a teen. Yaeli suffered from depression as a young teenager and later identified as transgender, but while Yaeli’s school encouraged her to secretly join an LGBTQ group, it also encouraged her to keep the information from her mother. Yaeli was taken from her home by the parent of a transgender student, and after school officials coached her at the police station, Yaeli was removed from her mom’s custody and placed in a group home by the California Department of Child and Family Services. Instead of providing the medical care that Yaeli needed for her severe depression, California gave her testosterone and took her away from her mom – the one support she knew she could always rely on. After identifying as male for about three years, changing her name, and taking cross-sex hormones, Yaeli committed suicide at age 19.

According to First Liberty’s brief, “States violate the Free Exercise Clause when they target religious families because of their sincerely held beliefs. Parental rights are closely linked with free exercise rights and are especially strong for religious families seeking to teach their faith to the next generation. For nearly 100 years, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the ‘enduring American tradition’ of ‘the rights of parents to direct ‘the religious upbringing’ of their children.’” Espinoza v. Montana Dep’t of Revenue, 140 S. Ct. 2246, 2261 (2020) . . . Not only does the First Amendment protect parents’ freedom to teach their faith to their children, but for many, including amicus Ms. Martinez and Petitioners, this is an obligation at the core of the parents’ own religious exercise.”

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