The Human Rights Campaign was joined by lawmakers, health care providers, advocates and parents Friday to speak out against a package of bills that passed in the last day of the legislative session.
Alabama became the first state in the country Friday to impose criminal penalties on doctors providing puberty blockers, hormones or other gender transitioning medical care to minors experiencing gender dysphoria.
“There are very real challenges facing our young people, especially with today’s societal pressures and modern culture,” Gov. Kay Ivey said after signing SB 184 into law on Friday. “I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl. We should especially protect our children from these radical, life-altering drugs and surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in life. Instead, let us all focus on helping them to properly develop into the adults God intended them to be.”
In addition, the Legislature also passed a bill that originally required K-12 students to use the bathroom of their birth-assigned sex. The bill was amended Thursday by Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, to include language similar to a Florida law that has been dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill would prevent teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through fifth grade.
“Here in Alabama, men use the men’s room, and ladies use the ladies’ room – it’s really a no brainer,” Ivey said. “This bill will also ensure our elementary school classrooms remain free from any kind of sex talk. Let me be clear to the media and opponents who like to incorrectly dub this the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ amendment: that is misleading, false and just plain wrong. We don’t need to be teaching young children about sex. We are talking about 5-year-olds for crying out loud. We need to focus on what matters – core instruction like reading and math.”
The Human Rights Campaign organized a conference Friday condemning the bills.
“In the final hours of the legislative session, Alabama’s Anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials decided to use those precious minutes to rush legislative attacks on our most vulnerable transgender youth and pass not one, but two discriminatory and dangerous bills,” said Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Human Rights Campaign Alabama state director. “Denying the necessary care needed, and the ability to use a proper bathroom is wrong. These vulnerable children are being attacked by our elected officials to score political points.”
Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, the only openly gay lawmaker in the Legislature, spoke out passionately Thursday against the bills and joined the conference Friday to reiterate his frustration.
“Yesterday, we saw an assault on our communities,” Rafferty said. “We saw an assault on freedom, we saw an assault on choice, we saw an assault on children and their families. It is a shameful, shameful day in Alabama. We should and we do deserve better. That is why we will stand up so they know that they will not erase us.”
Jeff Walker, who has a transgender daughter, said he watched in “shock and disbelief.”
“I am in continued disbelief at the falsehoods that have been spoken in these bills, and during the debates that were mentioned as if they were true and happening in Alabama,” Walker said. “The way this care is represented in these laws is absolutely false … Last night my daughter shared with me her worries about the future of trans people in this state, and the future of our family, her friends, and if all those other kids can maintain their lives in the state of Alabama.”
He also read a letter from his daughter, Harley.
“I had so many instant thoughts, ‘Would I have to move? What will this mean to me? What does this mean with my ability to go to the bathroom? How will I continue to get the care I have been getting for the last five years,’” she said. “I was so frustrated at the comments that were being made (on the House floor) and the way trans people were being dehumanized, the uneducated way that trans people were being discussed made me so upset.”
Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign state legislative director and senior counsel, called the bills “the single most anti-transgender legislative package in history.”
“Borrowing and combining discriminatory ideas from some of the states most notorious for anti-transgender discrimination – including Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas – on the final day of the legislative session, Alabama passed a legislative package that amounts to the greatest hits of anti-transgender legislation,” Oakley said.