Alabama Parents ask Full 11th Circuit to Review Panel Decision that Allows the State to Ban Needed Medical Care for their Children

by Aryn Fields

The panel decision reversing the block on Alabama’s criminal transgender healthcare ban undermines parents’ bedrock right to provide their children with established medical care and conflicts with clear precedent that laws targeting transgender people discriminate based on sex.

Alabama families challenging the state’s ban on medical care for their transgender children have asked the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to review a panel ruling saying the ban can take effect while their case continues.

The Alabama ban has been blocked since May of 2022 by a preliminary injunction issued by a federal district court following a multi-day evidentiary hearing in which the court heard testimony from parents, health care providers, and medical experts. After considering the evidence, the district court found that the provision of these medical treatments is established care and that being denied these treatments would cause transgender adolescents to suffer serious harm. The district court opinion held that in targeting transgender youth Alabama’s law likely violates the federal Equal Protection Clause and also violates parents’ fundamental right to make medical decisions for their children.

On August 21, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. In their request for rehearing, the plaintiffs argue the full court should review the panel decision because it conflicts with Supreme Court and 11th Circuit precedent dictating that all laws discriminating based on sex should be subjected to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, and because the ban violates parents’ longstanding right to make medical decisions for their children, rather than cede that power to the state.

The Alabama families challenging the law are represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, The Southern Poverty Law Center, and Human Rights Campaign.

Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director at Human Rights Campaign said:
“Parents, not the government, are best situated to make medical decisions for their children. That understanding is deeply rooted in our common understanding and our legal foundations. Allowing this ban to take effect would be a shocking reversal of firmly established precedent and a jarring intrusion into private family decisions.”

Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders said:
“As the district court concluded after hearing days of testimony from parents, doctors, and medical experts, enforcement of Alabama’s criminal transgender healthcare ban will harm thousands of transgender adolescents across Alabama. It will also put Alabama parents in the excruciating position of not being able to get the medical care their children need to thrive. We will support these parents and their kids in pushing back against that dangerous reality on every level.”

Shannon Minter, Legal Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights said:
“Our clients and other Alabama families have a right to protect their transgender children and ensure they get the support they need. The panel’s decision tramples on that right and conflicts with clearly established Supreme Court and 11th Circuit law. We hope the full court will review this case and prevent this devastating criminal ban from taking effect.”

Scott McCoy, Deputy Legal Director for LGBTQ Rights and Special Litigation at Southern Poverty Law Center said:
“Allowing SB 184 to take effect would serve no purpose other than preventing parents from obtaining the medical care their children need. Every federal district court that has heard the evidence presented has come to the same conclusion: the established medical treatments recommended for transgender adolescents are safe, effective, and lifesaving for some youth, and there is no legitimate reason to ban them.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) are joined in the litigation by co-counsel King & Spalding LLP and Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC.

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