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Opinion | Playing dangerous games with children’s lives

They do this only for crass political reasons, not to “rescue” vulnerable children, who most lawmakers really care nothing about.


We’ve been here no telling how many times. Alabama loves “tilting at windmills.” Championing terrible “lost causes.” Digging holes the state can’t get out of. Trying to “put makeup on a pig” and calling it “good legislation.”

Yes, as some of my friends tell me, I’m an amazing cliché-est. 

That aside, clearly Alabama leaders, including our inept state attorney general, enjoy passing laws not because they are necessary or helpful, but because they satisfy a terrible need to pick on some marginalized group to score political points. They love their boots on people’s necks.

They love it when they hear, metaphorically, “I can’t breathe.”

It’s worse than any cliché, though. It’s cynical and dangerous. But that’s what happens when lawmakers pass laws demonstrating they (cliché warning) “don’t have a clue.”

Where transgender teens are concerned, most Alabama lawmakers do not have a clue.

A federal judge just tossed the core of a terrible law that tries to take away needed medical care from transgender youths, their parents, and their doctors. This law made it a crime, with fines and prison time, for a doctor to do her job.

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The law made it a crime for physicians to prescribe puberty blockers and other treatments to help teens during gender transition.

Reading the decision, one can almost sense the frustration that U.S. District Judge Liles Burke, a Trump appointee, was feeling as he worked on his ruling. The law took effect last Sunday; his ruling came out Friday evening. Judge Burke should have moved a bit faster. But he did get there. Sort of.

Burke left in place a provision that bans transition surgeries for minors, something that is never done, anywhere, by any qualified physician. So that’s a “problem” that doesn’t exist (a characteristic of these political laws passed by a hyper-political Legislature controlled by the homophobic, transphobic, racist, ignorant-to-the-facts lawmakers — the vast majority Republicans — that we elect).

More troubling is that Burke also let stand a part of the law that requires counselors and school officials to “out” students to their parents if a kid “thinks” they may be transgender. Children struggling with gender dysphoria have among the highest suicide rates in the nation.

Part of that problem are parents who can’t imagine their teens being happy after they discover and reveal who they truly are. (Or even may be. Sometimes, it takes a while for a kid to figure it out.)

Most parents support their gay and transgender children, even if they don’t agree with them. But some parents do not, just as they lash out when their sons or daughters disclose to them that they are gay or lesbian or bisexual. How to handle disclosure should be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on a child’s home environment, and those who understand the risks – their counselors, teachers, physicians — who are now ordered to put children in danger.

Some parents just can’t handle the truth.

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The entire law should have been thrown out, and probably will be, eventually. But even though the law is pretty set that the state cannot interfere with a parent’s role in the raising of their children or a doctor’s ability to treat a patient under her care with best practices, Alabama pushes forward. Ignorantly. Daring to defend their wrongs.

They do this only for crass political reasons, not to “rescue” vulnerable children, who most lawmakers really care nothing about. Otherwise, we’d have wonderful programs to help poor children succeed, to make sure a good education doesn’t depend on where you live in the state, to make sure good day-care is available to all who need it.

Instead, let’s kick around some trans kids.

This bullying of transgender teens is THE big issue in Alabama politics right now. You can’t watch local TV for five minutes without seeing Tim James beat up on children. Or Kay Ivey, probably the safest governor in the nation, jumping on the hate bandwagon. After James punches them around a bit, Ivey jumps on them with a figure-four leglock, one of the most devastating wrestling moves there is. The visual is not pretty.

Other candidates – Katie Britt and Lindy Blanchard, among them – have torn into transgender teens without mercy. But then, there is so little mercy in Alabama, whatever the dire situation.

They believe their hate will help them get elected, and voters more often than not, reward that hate because too many voters aren’t any brighter than their lawmakers.

It’s the same kind of hate that over the years helped awful candidates get elected by bullying African-Americans, women, other LGBTQ+ kids and adults, immigrants (whether undocumented or not) – just about anybody who doesn’t agree with their twisted vision of what America should look like. Should be. 

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Their thinking:

This year this election cycle: “If we could just get rid of the queers, right?”

This year and in past years: “If we could just keep the Black and brown illegals from coming here, right?”

Not too long ago: “Black men and women should not marry each other or have the same rights as us or even sit near us at the movie theater or ballgame or the restaurant, right?”

Throughout its troubled history, this is Alabama. It’s the racist Republican Party today, the racist Democratic Party of yesteryear.

White, Fundy-Christian, and haters. That’s the world Republicans, in Alabama and across the nation, want to live in.

Jesus would not recognize them.

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Judge Burke’s ruling will likely be affirmed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Burke quoted from the conservative court in his decision). Then, on to the U.S. Supreme Court, another GOP hot-spot these days. Republicans managed to pack the court with people just like them: Haters of everything they disagree with, instead of men and women who value life, freedom, the pursuit of happiness. Jurists who know the U.S. Constitution is meant to change as the country ages, but truly ignore the Founders’ intent.

We need jurists who care, who understand that their rulings really do affect people, and hurt, them, too. A corporation can be a “person,” but a “person,” flesh and blood, can’t control her own body?

Hypocrites, all.

For now, transgender teens in Alabama are “safe,” at least from hateful legislators who, quite frankly, probably wouldn’t know a person completed transition if they married them.

So, we, as a state, regularly get into these losing legal battles, spending no telling how many millions of dollars fighting to save a whole host of racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, and ungodly laws (even though God shouldn’t have a say in secular, state issues, anyway).

The politicians really don’t care. They’ve fired their hate-filled canons. No real reason to reload them now. The primary elections are less than two weeks. By the time the anti-trans law works through the courts, our politicians’ need for these cheap votes will be history.

But mark this: Next time an election comes around, there will be plenty of lawmakers who will uncover the next marginalized group to bully. They always do, because bullies keep it up until somebody knocks them down.

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Too many voters in Alabama don’t seem to mind bullies, either, and that says plenty about them.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @joeykennedy

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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