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Calling the end of Alabama’s legislative session a “breathtakingly cruel and cowardly day,” lawmakers, medical providers, religious leaders and parents joined the Human Rights Campaign in opposition of two new laws that would limit transgender students’ healthcare options and bathroom access.
Gov. Kay Ivey signed the two anti-transgender bills into law Friday afternoon, including Senate Bill 184, the first bill to impose felony criminal penalties of up to 10 years on medical professionals who offer gender-affirming treatment to young people. Alabama would become only the second state in the country, after Arkansas last year, to pass an anti-trans medical ban into law.
The organization and several other civil and LGBTQ legal rights groups plan to sue on behalf of two medical providers and multiple families who they say will be directly harmed by the law.
“It is so beyond the pale in terms of how outrageous it is,” Cathryn Oakley, the HRC’s state legislative director, said of the bill, calling SB184 the “shining star of outrageousness.”
House Bill 322 passed both chambers in the final hours of Thursday’s session and was also signed by Ivey Friday afternoon. It bans K-12 students from using bathrooms and school facilities consistent with gender identity and would enact so-called “Don’t Say Gay” provisions similar to recent Florida law.
Read more: Alabama’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill: What it would do; read the text
SB184, called the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, has been heavily debated for three years. Proponents say the therapies should not be used on minors because of the long-term consequences that they might later regret.
“It’s about protecting these minors,” said House sponsor Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy. “And it’s not about adults, but it’s about those minors. Their minds are not fully developed to make these decisions on these medications and surgeries.”
Arkansas passed a similar bill last year over the Governor’s veto but then was immediately enjoined in federal court. Texas also issued an executive action equating trans youth healthcare with child abuse, but it was not through a legislative vote.
“Never before in the entire history of our country has a state government tried to literally criminalize parents or doctors for providing children with beneficial, necessary, well-established medical care,” said Shannon Minster, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “That’s not only wrong; it is unlawful.”
Minster said Friday that the NCLR will challenge the bill with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice. The group will join the HRC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defender, along with a separate group comprised of the ACLU of Alabama, its national chapter, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center and Cooley LLP in bringing suits against SB 184. The White House has also condemned both bills and said Friday that it would hold the state accountable for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Speakers also claimed that the bills were a purely political move by lawmakers and Ivey, who is seeking reelection.
“Governor Ivey and the legislators in the State House are liable for the harm they cause to transgender people’s wellbeing caused by being subjected to repeated legislative attacks on their dignity and humanity,” said Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Human Rights Campaign Alabama State Director. “These vulnerable children are being attacked by our anti-LGBTQ lawmakers to score political points.”
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky of UAB’s department of pediatrics said her gender care team has treated about 450-500 youth in Alabama. She said she worried the state would become a “litmus test” for what could happen with standard of care medicine if SB184 in particular were signed into law.
“The state continues to be home to thousands of brilliant, creative, gender diverse youth and their families,” she said. “People who are never bothering anybody, until all of us were thrust into the center of a national wave of political wedge legislation – vilifying youth this time, who can’t fight back at a ballot box? That is not just bullying, it’s frankly pedantic.”
Rev. Julie Conrady of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham said the legislation will not stop her church and others in Alabama to continue to affirm transgender people.
“They just want to see their children alive and safe,” she said, recounting concerns from parents of her congregation who called her last night in tears. “And this legislation puts both of those things at great risk.”
Parent Jeff Walker’s daughter Harleigh Walker had received gender-affirming care from UAB physicians for nearly five years. He said he watched the legislative session in “shock and disbelief” at the falsehoods portrayed in the bill about the medical process. He also commended Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, for “standing up to the bullies” in the Legislature yesterday.
Read more: Alabama’s only openly gay legislator to anti-trans bill backers: ‘Don’t you dare call me a friend’
Walker teared up as he read a note from Harleigh, who came home from school Thursday to hear that the bills were on their way to the governor’s desk.
“She worries about the future, and the future of our family in this state, and what it’s going to mean for her, for her friends that are trans, and for our family and whether or not we’ll have to stay together as we have to pursue care for her and whether our other kids have to maintain their lives here in the state of Alabama,” he said.
Allen, the sponsor of SB184, told reporters yesterday that he had not met with transgender teens ahead of the vote. An Arkansas governor vetoed its healthcare bill after meeting with trans youth, though it was overridden within a number of hours.
At the press conference, Ladinsky said she had asked Ivey to meet with trans teens and was told “not at this time.”
“Hopefully she’ll change her mind,” she said before the signing. “We’re right here.”
On the final day of the legislative session, Alabama lawmakers added their own version of “Don’t Say Gay” to a bill already written to target the state’s LGBT population. AL.com wants to hear from you. Email your response in 300 words to [email protected].