US joins legal battle against transgender law
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The U.S. Justice Department is challenging an Alabama law that makes it a crime for doctors to treat transgender people under the age of 19 with puberty blockers and hormones to help them affirm their new gender identity.
The department’s motion, filed Friday, seeks to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional and seeking to block it from taking effect on May 8.
The action comes after the department sent a letter to all 50 state attorneys general warning that barring transgender and non-binary youth from receiving gender-affirming care could violate federal constitutional protections.
Doctors and others would face up to 10 years in prison for violating Alabama law. Trans youth and parents said Alabama was trying to ban what they saw as necessary and sometimes life-saving care.
“The law discriminates against transgender minors by unjustifiably denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care,” the complaint states. “Because of SB 184, healthcare professionals, parents, and minors of age to make their own medical decisions are forced to choose between forgoing medically necessary procedures and treatments or facing criminal prosecution.”
Alabama is among several states with Republican-controlled legislatures that have advanced bills regarding transgender youth and LGBTQ issues. Alabama’s law is the most extensive and the first to criminalize treatment.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott had ordered the state’s child welfare agency to investigate care reports confirming the children’s gender as abuse.
Arkansas also banned gender-affirming drugs, but that law was blocked from going into effect.
Alabama Republicans who support the state law argue that it is necessary to protect children. A spokeswoman for Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said, “We stand ready to uphold our Alabama values and this legislation.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement Friday that “the Biden administration has chosen to prioritize leftist politics over the children of Alabama.”
“As we will show in this case, the DOJ [Department of Justice’s] the claim that these treatments are “medically necessary” is ideologically motivated misinformation. Science and common sense are on Alabama’s side. We will win this fight to protect our children,” Marshall said.
State attorneys in an initial court appearance argued that the science of the treatments was in doubt and therefore the state had a role to play in regulation. Marshall said there is “a growing body of evidence that using experimental drugs on vulnerable children with gender dysphoria will cause significant lifelong harm.”
Doctors providing the treatments and medical groups have said the treatments meet accepted, evidence-based standards of care.
As the law’s effective date draws closer, some Alabama parents with trans children say they feel their children are being exploited for political gain in an area that may already feel little welcoming.
“LGBTQ people have always been part of our community, but we are being silenced and beaten by the Bible Belt,” said Pamela Northington, mother of a trans teenager.
She said telling the children they had to wait only added years to their struggle. “The emotional state of young people in transition is already in an exacerbated state due to bullying and fear of not being accepted. I fear that for some of them it will become tragic.
U.S. District Judge Liles Burke has scheduled a hearing Thursday on a request to block Alabama officials from enforcing the law while the legal challenge continues.
Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign – an LGBTQ advocacy group – said she was “encouraged to see the Department of Justice weigh in on this law that so severely interferes in the lives of Alabama families. “.