Parents Challenging Alabama’s Criminal Ban on Healthcare for Transgender Adolescents to Argue before the 11th Circuit Friday

by Aryn Fields

Plaintiffs urge the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals not to reinstate a law that would criminalize doctors and parents for ensuring their transgender children can access necessary medical care to support their well-being

Plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s SB 184 tomorrow will urge the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to affirm the district court’s order barring enforcement of the law, which would criminalize doctors and parents for providing transgender children with access to necessary medical care. The law was blocked by a federal district court judge in May 2022 after a two-day evidentiary hearing.

Arguments on Alabama’s appeal of the district court’s ruling will begin at approximately 9:30 a.m. CT Friday morning at the Frank M. Johnson Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Montgomery. The argument will be livestreamed. More information is available on the court website.

SB 184 criminalizes parents who seek essential medical care for their transgender children, the doctors who provide this medical care, and anyone else who assists transgender young people to get the care they need. Under the law, which is unprecedented, parents, doctors and others could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The district court blocked enforcement of SB 184 after an extensive evidentiary hearing in May 2022, finding that the law seeks to ban established, effective medical care and that doing so would cause severe harm. The district court found that the State of Alabama presented no credible evidence to contradict testimony from doctors and medical experts on the safety and efficacy of medical care for transgender youth who experience gender dysphoria, including the fact that over 22 major medical organizations recognize the established standard of care for transgender youth.

The suit, Boe v. Marshall, is brought by five parents on the grounds that it strips them of the right to make important decisions about their children’s healthcare. In its order blocking the law from taking effect, the district court agreed that plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their claim that SB 184 unconstitutionally discriminates against transgender minors and violates the fundamental right of parents, rather than the state, to make healthcare decisions for their children.

Plaintiff Megan Poe, mother of 15-year-old Allison of Northern Alabama (both proceeding anonymously):

“Like any parent, I want to provide my children with the support they need. Ensuring that my daughter has access to the medical care she needs has meant that she can be a confident teenager who is happy and optimistic about her future. I hope the court of appeals will see that parents of transgender children simply want our children to be healthy, happy and safe.”

The parent plaintiffs are joined by a private practice pediatrician in rural Southeast Alabama and a clinical psychologist in Birmingham. The U.S. Department of Justice has also joined the suit as plaintiff-intervenor challenging the constitutionality of the law, which would deny established medical treatments to youth who are transgender but not to others.

Additional Alabama parents of transgender children filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to uphold the injunction against SB 184.

In their brief, parents describe the importance of being able to seek the best medical advice and care to support their children’s well-being, and how they have seen their children flourish with access to the right care:

Laura and Brian Coe, parents of 15-year-old Matthew (proceeding anonymously)

As much as Matthew has benefitted simply from being accepted and affirmed by his family, school, doctors, and friends, his medical transition is a critical measure for his well-being…Since obtaining the medical care that he needs, Laura and Brian have seen Matthew begin to “come to life.” The Coes would “worry for Matthew’s safety” if there were a disruption to his care. They are “simply trying to support their child and provide him with the best care possible.”

Melissa Soe, parent of 15-year-old Taylor (proceeding anonymously)

Since coming out and receiving care, Taylor has gone from “an anxious, sad kid who had a hard time getting up in the morning, to a kid who is up and out on their bike, in the woods, and going to camp.” Taylor is finally beginning to remind their parents of the happy-go-lucky kid they were when they were younger, prior to puberty taking its toll…” [It is] very important to Taylor to have continuity of care,” which would be disrupted by implementation of [SB 184]. Simply knowing that such care is accessible has significantly decreased Taylor’s distress.

Cynthia Lamar-Hart, parent of Gwendolyn who began receiving transition-related care while an adolescent living in Alabama and is now in her late 20s
Because access to care was not available in Alabama at the time, the family had to travel out-of-state:

[E]ven with the means to afford and make time for out-of-state treatment, Cynthia witnessed how … months of delays in Gwendolyn’s care resulted in suffering that she would not have experienced had she been able to visit a clinic in-state. Cynthia quickly saw a change in Gwendolyn after she began receiving transition-related care. Once Gwendolyn began the process of transitioning, she was no longer withdrawn, and became more confident and engaged socially and at school.

Joining these parents in asking the 11th Circuit to continue blocking enforcement of SB 184 are:

All friend-of-the-court briefs filed in support of plaintiffs-appellees and other case documents can be found here.

The plaintiffs-appellees are represented by Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC, King & Spalding LLP, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF).

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