Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed two bills targeting the LGBTQ community into law on Friday, April 8, including a ban on gender-affirming health care that has already triggered a lawsuit. Both bills were approved overwhelmingly by the state’s Republican-led legislature last Thursday.
The first bill bars transgender youth under age 19 from obtaining gender-affirming treatments, including puberty blockers, hormones, and gender confirmation surgery. Physicians or anyone who provides trans youth with gender-affirming care, or makes it easier for them to obtain, could be convicted of a felony and face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
The second bill bans students from using bathrooms, locker rooms, or other facilities that don’t align with their assigned sex at birth. A provision, added in an amendment, copies Florida’s recently approved “Don’t Say Gay” bill by limiting LGBTQ content in classrooms through fifth grade, reports ABC News.
Supporters of the transgender health care ban claim that treatments are irreversible and cause infertility and other health risks. But most medical experts say that puberty blockers — which delay the onset of secondary sex characteristics — are reversible and do not carry long-term harm for those who have not yet undergone puberty.
Republican Sen. Shay Shelnutt, the sponsor of the bill, has even called providing gender-affirming care to minors a form of “child abuse.”
“I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl,” Ivey said in a statement after signing the bill into law. “We should especially protect our children from these radical, life-altering drugs and surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in life. Instead, let us all focus on helping them to properly develop into the adults God intended them to be.”
On Monday, two families with transgender teens and two physicians, enlisting the help of LGBTQ or allied organizations GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed suit in federal court to block the law from taking effect next month.
Ladinsky v. Ivey, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, argues that the law violates transgender youths’ right to equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is overly vague, and discriminates against transgender youth under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
It also argues that the law infringes on parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their own children and places medical providers in the difficult position of violating either federal law by discriminating against transgender patients, or puts them at risk of jail time and other potential consequences for violating state law.
“By signing SB 184 Governor Ivey has told kind, loving, and loyal Alabama families that they cannot stay here without denying their children the basic medical care they need,” Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “She has undermined the health and well-being of Alabama children and put doctors like me in the horrifying position of choosing between ignoring the medical needs of our patients or risking being sent to prison.”
“Like all parents, we want nothing more than for our child to be healthy and happy,” Robert Roe, another plaintiff and the father of a 13-year-old transgender daughter, said in a statement. “We have seen our daughter change from being reclusive and anxious to being an engaged, happy child once we got her the support and care she needs.
“This law threatens all of that and takes away our ability to follow the advice of highly qualified medical professionals. I was born and raised in Alabama and came back here with my wife to raise our family. We love this community which has shown us incredible support. But if this law goes into effect we may be forced to leave the state we call home in order to protect our daughter’s life.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs called the law an “extremely dangerous” measure that usurps parental rights.
“A state cannot criminalize parents and doctors for following medical guidelines and providing needed medical treatments,” Asaf Orr, the Transgender Youth Project Director and a staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “This is an unconstitutional bill that will cause enormous stress and harm to families. A federal court immediately stopped enforcement of a similar law in Arkansas last year, and we aim to obtain the same result here.”
Most mainstream medical and mental health organizations have come out in opposition to measures that restrict access to gender-affirming care. A similar law that passed in Arkansas in 2021 has been blocked by a federal judge.
In March, the Department of Justice sent a letter to all state Attorneys General warning that prohibiting access to health care because of a person’s gender identity violates federal law. That came in response to an order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directing state welfare agencies to investigate parents suspected of allowing their children to access gender-affirming medical treatments.
Alabama’s “bathroom ban,” known as HB 322, prohibits transgender youth from using school facilities that match their gender identity, although State Rep. Scott Stadthagen, the House sponsor, claims the bill does not explicitly target trans youth — even though that is the group most likely to be impacted by the law.
“Almost every school district in this state is dealing with this issue with opposite genders wanting to use opposite bathrooms,” Stadthagen said during a floor debate. “I find this to be a safety issue. It is for protection of our students.”
When signing the bill, Ivey praised the bathroom restrictions as common-sense but attacked critics for characterizing the provision barring discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools as anti-LGBTQ.
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, said that bills like those signed into law by Ivey will only inflict harm on trans youth.
“These policies are not only cruel and unnecessary, they are unpopular among a majority of Americans,” Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, said in a statement. “Criminalizing doctors, isolating trans youth from their support systems and stigmatizing conversations around LGBTQ identity will only fuel more bullying, anxiety and suicide risk among these youth.”
The Human Rights Campaign also blasted Ivey for signing the bills, saying she should be “ashamed” of her actions.
“This legislation helps no one and no constituency that stands to benefit from this,” HRC Alabama State Director Carrion Anderson-Harvey said in a statement. “But LGBTQ+ kids, especially transgender kids, will be harmed by this law. They’ll be forced to bear the cost of further discrimination — discrimination that already causes transgender youth to feel unsafe in school — just because self-serving politicians chose to use their existence to score political points. Ivey’s signature on this horrid bill is an embarrassment to herself, her administration, and the entire state of Alabama.”
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