Two Alabama families with transgender youth filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging recently passed state legislation that makes gender-affirming care for transgender youth a class C Felony, with both families alleging the new law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S Constitution.
Both families said the law denies medically necessary care that would devastate “the mental and physical health of their adolescent children,” according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU’s Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Cooley LLP are representing the families in the lawsuit.
“Transgender youth are a part of Alabama, and they deserve the same privacy, access to treatment, and data-driven health care from trained medical professionals as any other Alabamian,” said Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director of the ACLU of Alabama. “We will fight to make sure this is the reality for trans kids and their families, and we condemn the intrusive actions of the lawmakers who voted to use children as political pawns for their reelection campaigns.”
The bill in question, SB148, sponsored by state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, was signed into law Friday by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, leading to widespread criticism from civil liberties groups and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. Two other Alabama families, joined by two Alabama medical providers, have already filed a legal challenge in federal court against the bill.
“I know that I am a girl and I always have been,” said 15-year-old H.W, daughter of plaintiffs Jeff and Lisa Walker in a press release from the ACLU Monday. “Even before I learned the word ‘transgender’ or met other trans people, I knew myself. I did not choose to experience bullying and discrimination because I am transgender. I chose to be proud of who I am. The possibility of losing access to my medical care because of this law causes me deep anxiety. I would not feel like myself anymore if this lifesaving medication was criminalized.”
In the same release, the Walkers said that if their daughter is denied access to her medication due to the new law, the family will be forced to move from Alabama, separating H.W. from an older brother currently serving in the Alabama National Guard.
“Like many parents, I had a lot of questions when my daughter first told me she is transgender,” said Jeffrey White, parent of 13-year-old C.W, and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Since she began receiving treatment from a doctor, she has become more confident. We still enjoy the same activities as a family, like playing video games. I took the time to learn what it means to have a transgender daughter and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I hope other parents and lawmakers will set aside their fears and listen to doctors and trans youth. With love and support — including medically necessary care — I know she can thrive, and that’s all any parent wants for their kid.”
Jeff and Christa White also said they are prepared to leave Alabama if their daughter loses access to gender-affirming care.
Healthcare professionals and medical organizations have continually repeated that gender-affirming care is a lifesaving treatment for transgender youth, with medical studies showing that transgender youth who receive gender-affirming have improved mental health outcomes and fewer cases of depression, self-harm, and suicide or attempted suicide. Transgender youth face a higher likelihood of bullying than other youth, with 29 percent of transgender youth stating they have attempted suicide, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, legislation in Arkansas banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth was blocked by a federal court days before the law was set to go into effect. SB148 will go into effect on May. 8.