Anti Trans Bills: Alabama lawmakers delivered two anti-transgender laws to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk on the last day of the legislative session, shocking LGBTQ+ groups in the state.
Gender-affirming medical care for transgender children is classified as a criminal under one bill. The other mandates that students use restrooms and locker rooms according to their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
That bill was amended to make it illegal for public schools to teach or enable classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity to children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Both bills were signed by Ivey, a Republican, on Friday. The governor appeared to indicate in a statement that she does not believe in transgender people: “If the good Lord made you a male, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl.” A request for comment was not immediately returned by a representative.
Both legislation takes effect 30 days after they are signed, though legal challenges are certain. Alabama‘s ban on gender-affirming care will be challenged in court by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and the Transgender Law Center.
A related lawsuit is being filed on behalf of two medical professionals in the state, as well as many families, by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Human Rights Campaign, and other advocacy groups.
Advocates were caught off guard by the passing of the gender-affirming care prohibition. Alabama senators considered a bill proposed by state Sen. Shay Shelnutt to make gender-affirming care for trans adolescents, such as puberty blockers and hormone treatment, a crime for the third year in a row.
According to Dillon Nettles, policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Alabama, who frequently works from the Alabama statehouse, supporters on the ground did not anticipate the state’s restriction on gender-affirming care to even make it to the floor for a debate as of last week.
The gender-affirming treatment ban also compels school counselors and teachers to notify parents if their youngsters come out as transgender.
“In the end, I believe that proponents of this legislation were able to exert pressure on the leadership and persuade them to supplement their goal, even if it put trans youngsters in the state at risk,” Nettles said.
Shelnutt also offered a teaching amendment to the state’s bathroom bill on Thursday, which was a pleasant surprise.
The amendment is modeled after Florida’s policy on LGBTQ+ problems in the classroom, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by supporters and signed into law last month. About 24 hours before the amendment passed, Nettles learned about it.
The bills’ success this year, according to Nettles and Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director for the Human Rights Campaign, is due to the state’s election season.
“It was really more focused on political scoring this year,” Anderson-Harvey remarked. “Right now, we’re all in a state of disarray… We were taken aback because we were caught off guard.”
Ivey campaigned on the bill barring trans children from participation in sports teams that match their gender identity, which he signed last year as part of the state’s gubernatorial race. Shelnutt is also up for re-election in Alabama’s Senate. Shelnutt’s office did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama who provides gender-affirming care to trans adolescents in Alabama and adjacent states, is used to protesting laws that could harm her work and patients.
“To terminate a very successful course of medical care without a medical reason breaches a basic principle of our profession’s ethics,” she said. “I have to choose between violating ethics, violating my profession’s standards of care, and risking a felony prosecution.”
If the bill is signed into law, Ladinsky will be one of the medical practitioners who will be sued by the NCLR, SPLC, and Human Rights Campaign.
She stated the Gender Health Clinic she helps run presently gives puberty blockers to 30 to 40 young people in Alabama, as well as hormone therapy to well over 100 people. She went on to say that starting puberty blockers or hormone therapy for trans children is a “long path.” “It’s not something that happens overnight.”
Even if the state’s restriction on gender-affirming care for children is soon overturned in court and never becomes law, Ladinsky fears that trans youth in the state may suffer from worsening mental health and be more likely to attempt suicide as a result of the legislation’s passage.
“In this situation, gender-diverse youngsters have displayed a significantly higher level of anxiety, merely in anticipation of what could happen,” she added.
Since last summer, Ladinsky and other employees of her gender health clinic have been called in more regularly by colleagues in the emergency department and psychiatry unit to respond to trans youth suicide attempts, she said.
“We’ve been seeing one or two a month since last summer.” “We consulted on six different youngsters in January,” she added. She attributes the rise to anxiety over anti-trans legislation, as well as youths’ anxieties that their families will reject them, as well as mental health difficulties associated with the pandemic.
On Thursday afternoon, Dina Marble, a middle and high school counselor in Birmingham, met with three of her trans and nonbinary kids to reassure them that they would not be out to their parents.
“They’re concerned that teachers will be forced to out them,” she explained. “One of the children informed me that their older sister told them that if their parents discovered they were trans, they would be kicked out of the house.” She stated that the student is 12 years old.
The only other state to adopt legislation criminalizing trans youth who get gender-affirming care through puberty blockers and hormone therapy was Arkansas, but the bill was halted in federal court before it could take effect. Arkansas filed an appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals early this year.
The organization Freedom for All Americans, which tracks anti-LGBTQ+ bills, has witnessed an uptick in last-minute modifications to anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ laws, according to Hannah Willard, vice president of government affairs.
In Utah, the governor’s veto of a now-enacted bill prohibiting trans children, particularly trans females, from participating in school sports that correspond to their gender identity was based on an overhaul of an anti-trans statute.
On Thursday, the White House blasted the Alabama proposals, reiterating the Justice Department’s warning from last week that policies and laws prohibiting medically advised care for trans kids may violate federal law.
In addition to the numerous lawsuits already filed in opposition to the bills, Ladinsky sees Alabama as a testbed for what the federal government can and will do in response to anti-trans legislation.
“Right now, seeing my state and my kids raised to the litmus test for it feels incredibly dangerous,” she added.