By Natalia Ruvalcaba
MONTGOMERY, AL – Several organizations have joined the American Civil Liberties Union in an effort to stand against Alabama legislation that would advance the criminalization and imprisonment of medical officials who carry out gender-affirming processes.
The organizations backing the ACLU include the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Cooley LLP.
The ACLU reports that proposed legislation that would criminalize such medical professionals has been steadily receiving opposition, varying from families with transgender youth to medical professionals. In states like Arkansas and Texas, legislation to block access to gender-affirming practices has been denied by the courts.
Currently, two bills stand in the Alabama legislature that would criminalize medical professionals who carry out gender-affirming processes. These bills, House Bill 266 and Senate Bill 184, would result in penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.
Opposition to these bills has come from medical companies, doctors, and businesses. Mental health outcomes have proven to be better among transgender youth who receive gender-affirming care, which includes lower rates of depression and suicide.
Sruti Swaminathan, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal stated, “If Alabama lawmakers insist on passing this cruel, dangerous, and unconstitutional legislation into law, the state will immediately have a lawsuit to deal with.”
Swaminathan added, “The Alabama Legislature and Governor Kay Ivey need to consider the time and resources they will invest, not to mention the stain of discrimination that often means lost opportunity and investment, and ask themselves if targeting the health care of children is truly worth it because we are prepared to make that investment in order to protect transgender youth, their families, and their doctors in Alabama.”
In a similar sentiment, Carl Charles, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, noted, “Shame on the cruel, heartless, and power-hungry state legislators that want to take away life-saving medical care from transgender youth in Alabama. We are ready to use the full force of the law to come down on this clearly unconstitutional legislation should it come to pass.”
The ACLU of Alabama is represented by Kaitlin Welborn, a staff attorney for the organization, who reported, “Our representatives have been hearing from medical experts, parents, transgender youth, and other advocates for the past three years in an attempt to stop this harmful bill from passing.”
Welborn added, “But despite this strong opposition, the Legislature seems determined to move ahead with this shameful effort to prevent parents and kids from deciding the best course of treatment for themselves. If the state moves forward in passing this unconstitutional bill, we’ll see them in court.”
Last year, an Arkansas law similar to the current proposed legislation was denied by federal court, according to the ACLU. Similarly, a Texas law that would criminalize transgender youth’s parents for allowing gender-affirming care for their children was denied in state court.
Deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ and HIV Project was reported to have said, “If passed and signed into law, Alabama will have the most deadly, sweeping, and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country. The way to reduce harm to trans youth is to provide them with gender-affirming health care where it is medically indicated.”
“This bill takes that lifesaving treatment option off the table and makes it a felony. Moving forward with this bill will be deadly for trans youth, push doctors out of a state that has a shortage of medical providers, hurt Alabama’s economy, and subject the state to costly litigation,” the deputy director added.
Legal director of the Transgender Law Center, Lynly Egyes asserted, “What we are seeing in the state of Alabama is another misguided attempt to control the lives of transgender people. This legislation is one of the most aggressive in the country and will directly negatively impact transgender youth, their families, and their supporters. Threatening providers with prison time or fines as a result of their dedication to their patients is ruthless. Above all, our goal is to ensure that trans youth become trans adults, and bills like this are antithetical to trans people thriving in this country.”