Alabama Legislature Passes Nation’s First Bill to Impose Criminal Penalties On Providers of Age-Appropriate, Medically Necessary, Gender-Affirming Care for Transgender Youth

by Delphine Luneau

Violating the Law Would be A Felony Punishable by One-Ten Years in Prison

Only Other Ban on Gender-Affirming Care to Pass into Law Did So Last Year Over Arkansas Governor’s Veto, Was Immediately Challenged And Enjoined in Federal Court

Ban Would Also Force Educators to Out Children to Their Parents

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the passage by the Alabama State House of Representatives of legislation, S.B. 184. The legislation, passed today in a rushed last-minute session by anti-equality legislators, is the first in the nation to impose felony criminal penalties on medical professionals who offer evidence-based, age-appropriate, gender-affirming treatment to youth. This bill will become the first discriminatory anti-transgender legislation to reach Governor Ivey’s desk this session. Senate Bill 184, which defies the best practices supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other leading medical authorities; strips away parents’ right to make decisions, in consultation with their doctor, about providing their child with best-practice medical care; and, would require school personnel to out transgender youth to their parent(s).

Following today’s vote and ahead of Governor Ivey’s decision, Human Rights Campaign Alabama State Director Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey issued the following statement:

“Anti-equality legislators in the state capital have recklessly passed a bill that goes directly against the best advice of the medical community and intrudes on the rights of parents and families to make their own medical decisions. In doing so, they will also criminalize critically important care that transgender youth need desperately. S.B. 184 does not fulfill the proposed goal of making our state safer; in fact, it does the exact opposite, aligning Alabama with states like Texas and Florida in attacking transgender kids and worsening their emotional distress. Governor Ivey should veto this legislation immediately and side with parents and families like Sergeant David Fuller, instead of the Alliance Defending Freedom and Eagle Forum who simply want to harm the transgender community. The Human Rights Campaign will continue our work to provide a safe, open and welcoming Alabama for all to live, work, and raise a family. HRC condemns the passage of this bill in the Alabama State Legislature, and demands that Governor Ivey veto this bill the second it arrives at her desk.”

If signed into law by Governor Ivey, Alabama would become only the second state in the country, after Arkansas last year, to have passed legislation preventing transgender youth from being able to access age-age appropriate, medically-necessary, gender-affirming care. It would be the first state to pass legislation creating a criminal penalty for doing so. Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently ordered the Department of Family Protective Services to investigate the provision of such care to minors in Texas as child abuse, a lawless so-called interpretation of existing Texas law that was immediately challenged in court and is currently enjoined. More than 200+ major companies came together to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Alabama and across the country – highlighting a wave of legislation, like S.B. 184, that targets LGBTQ+ youth. Arkansas’s legislative ban passed last year over the Governor’s veto and then was immediately enjoined in federal court.

Across the country, anti-equality politicians are working to pass bills to discriminate against and disrupt the lives of transgender people. By making it impossible for doctors to provide care for their patients, transgender youth are denied the age-appropriate, best practice, medically necessary, gender-affirming care that a new study just found reduces the risk of moderate or severe depression by 60% and suicidality by 73%. According to data from the Trevor Project, 42% of LGBTQ+ youth nationwide seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender youth in particular.

Transgender people, and especially transgender youth, are under attack like never before. In the last three years, anti-LGBTQ groups and politicians have singled out transgender kids to deny them access to gender-affirming medical treatment, prevent them from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity and deny them access to bathrooms. 2020 set a record number for anti-transgender bills filed with 79 bills, largely focused on attacking transgender youth; 2021 surpassed that record with 147 such bills filed in 34 states. For transgender youth – who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence – to bear the weight of these attacks year after year, these bills take a toll. Politicians are culpable for the harms they inflict by continuing to consider bills that target transgender youth.

Last year, a record 26 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were enacted into law across ten states. In 2022, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills are already pending in state legislatures, about half of which specifically target transgender youth and prevent them from being able to fully participate in everyday life. Lawmakers from coast to coast are seeking to ban transgender youth from participating in sports; criminalize medically necessary, life-saving healthcare for transgender youth; ban discussion of LGBTQ youth and families in classrooms, effectively erasing our community; revive “bathroom bills” to prohibit transgender young people from simply using the restroom at school, and even undermine companies’ own internal inclusion and safe workplace programs.

Anti-Transgender Attacks As A Political Talking Point

Legislators in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. In 2021, legislators in twelve states enacted anti-LGBTQ+ bills despite failing to provide examples of what exactly they were legislating against.

Merely introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric has already had a damaging impact, leading to LGBTQ+ youth resources being surreptitiously removed from a government website, 11-year-old kids literally having trouble sleeping, and a school district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent's complaint. 2021 and 2020 were the deadliest and second-deadliest years on record for trans & gender non-conforming people, respectively, with the Human Rights Campaign tracking at least 50 violent deaths in 2021 alone. A new Trevor Project survey shows that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by these legislative attacks.

Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radicalizing issue all by itself. This is in large part because transgender young people are among the most marginalized, voiceless, and defenseless communities in America, and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing misogynistic, racist, and sexist tropes about gender roles.

Anti-Equality Forces Are Spending Big

These bills are the result of a concerted effort by right-wing organizations that have been battling against LGBTQ+ progress for years. Across recent elections, one of the key anti-equality groups working to turn back decades of LGBTQ+ progress has been the American Principles Project (APP). APP and its chief underwriter Sam Fieler have invested millions of dollars in support of anti-LGBTQ+ candidates. In 2020, APP spent more than $2.6 million in ad spending in support of anti-equality candidates. In Virginia in 2021, APP spent at least $300,000 on digital advertising in support of Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign.

Restoration PAC, run and funded by major anti-LGBTQ+ bankroller Dick Uihlein, spent at least $1.9 million in advertising across Virginia in support of Youngkin and donated $942,000 to the political arm of the anti-abortion group Women Speak Out Virginia. Anti-equality group Free to Learn Action launched a $1 million ad campaign spreading widely debunked anti-transgender misinformation in support of Youngkin’s campaign.


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