Alabama Advances Discriminatory “Bathroom Bill”, “Don’t Say Gay or Trans”, Legislation to Governor’s Desk Amid Legislative Assault On Vulnerable Transgender Youth

by Delphine Luneau

H.B. 322, Which Passed The Senate In Final Hours Of Session, Bans K-12 Students From Using Bathrooms and School Facilities Consistent With Gender Identity, and Would Enact “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” Provisions Similar to Recent Florida Law

H.B. 322 Is The Second Anti-Trans Bill Passed In Last Minute Session By Anti-Equality State Legislators

In Response, Human Rights Campaign and Allies Demands Governor Ivey Veto Legislation, Protect Welfare of LGBTQ+ Community

The Human Rights Campaign condemned the passage of legislation, H.B. 322, out of the Alabama State Senate, that will ban transgender students from using bathrooms and other school facilities that align with their gender identity. After a late amendment, H.B 322 would also include language similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Or Trans” bill, which would ban any acknowledgement of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten through fifth grade. The legislation, passed on the final day of the legislative session, will now head to Governor Ivey’s desk for approval. If signed into law, the bill would put Alabama in direct contravention of federal law and immediately spur litigation which Alabama taxpayers will be funding for years. In the meantime, transgender students will bear the cost of the discrimination - discrimination which already causes transgender youth to feel unsafe in school, suffer academically, and have a higher likelihood of dropping out of school.

Today, the Alabama House of Representatives also passed legislation, S.B. 184, that would impose felony penalties on medical providers who offer age-appropriate, medically-necessary gender-affirming care. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), joined by co-counsel King & Spalding LLP and Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC, today announced they will bring a legal challenge to Alabama SB 184, should Governor Ivey sign it into law. 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.

Human Rights Campaign Alabama State Director Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey issued the following statement in reaction to today’s vote:

“In the final hours of the legislative session, Alabama’s Anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials decided to use those precious minutes, not to pass legislation that improves our state, but use that time to rush legislative attacks on our most vulnerable. These are not attempts to legislate against any sort of problem, these are attempts to exploit divisive political issues for political gain amongst their radical base at the expense of kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence. Governor Ivey must veto this legislation, and any similar anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that comes across her desk. These bills discriminate against and deny transgender students the fundamental human dignity of being able to use the bathroom without being targeted or humiliated. Transgender youth have a right to an education, and not being able to use the bathroom safely at school abridges that right.”

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.

Since the reviled HB2 was passed, and subsequently partially repealed, in North Carolina, Tennessee is the only state to have passed legislation mandating anti-transgender discrimination in bathrooms. Both of these “bathroom bills'' were immediately challenged in court. HB2 was itself challenged in federal court before its partial repeal. Should Alabama pass this discriminatory legislation, it will put schools in a position of having to choose between complying with federal law, including Title IX, and complying with discriminatory state law.

While “bathroom bills'' were very popular in 2016, the international condemnation heaped upon HB2 dissuaded many other states — including Texas — from advancing their own legislation. The Associated Press projected that HB2 passed in 2016 could have cost North Carolina $3.76 billion over 10 years from loss of business opportunities and impact the lives of countless students. Furthermore, legislation attacking transgender refuses to serve the major interests and needs of communities and families, who now pay the price as the consequences of failed leadership across the state. Transgender youth are denied their right to a public education when they’re preventing from accessing restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity, and “bathroom bills” are a violation of both Title IX and the U.S. Constitution.

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