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Parents urge court to keep block on law criminalizing care for transgender youth

The law would criminalize parents and doctors attempting to provide gender-transition medical treatment to minors.

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Parents challenging Alabama’s law regarding the treatment of  transgender minors have responded to the state’s appeal of a district court ruling that blocked enforcement of the law in May 2022. 

SB184 criminalizes parents who seek medical care for their transgender children, the doctors who provide this medical care, and anyone else who assists transgender young people to receive the gender-transitioning treatment. Under the law, parents, doctors, and others could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The State of Alabama has appealed the district court’s May 13 order blocking the law from being enforced to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

In their brief filed last night, plaintiffs urged the Court of Appeals to keep the injunction against SB184 in place, citing the district court’s reliance on well-established, evidence-based medical standards and parents’ fundamental right to obtain medical care for their children. At a May hearing before the district court and in related filings, parents testified that being able to access needed care has had an enormously positive impact on their children’s health and that being forced to stop treatment would create devastating consequences for their children’s wellbeing.

The district court blocked enforcement of SB184 citing substantial evidence that the law seeks to ban established, effective medical care and that doing so would cause severe harm. In its order the court said that plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their claim that SB184 unconstitutionally discriminates against transgender minors and violates the fundamental right of parents, rather than the state, to make healthcare decisions for their children.

“The district court recognized that parents, not the government, should make decisions about what’s best for their kids’ health and wellbeing,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project director. “Parents want what’s best for their kids. That’s why preserving parental rights to make healthcare decisions for their children has been such a long-held American value.”

In blocking the law, the district court noted that the State of Alabama presented no evidence to contradict testimony from doctors and medical experts on the well-established safety and efficacy of medical care for transgender youth who experience gender dysphoria, including the fact that over 22 major medical organizations recognize the established course of care for transgender youth.

The suit, Rev. Eknes-Tucker v. Marshall, is brought by five parents on the grounds that it strips them of the right to make important decisions about their children’s healthcare. 

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“While many people may not understand what it means to have a transgender child, I know any parent can relate to worrying about whether your child is healthy and safe,” said the mother of a transgender teen, remaining anonymous to protect their identity. “Stopping SB184 from taking effect has let my family breathe a little easier as my daughter has continued to get the support and care she needs. This law has shined a spotlight on our family’s personal healthcare decisions that we didn’t ask for, but I’m so glad that the district court heard and understood our experience and the experience of other families like ours. My daughter is a confident, engaged and happy teenager today because we are able to provide her care. I hope the court of appeals will see that, too, and keep the injunction against SB184 in place until we hopefully see it stopped for good.”

They are joined by a private practice pediatrician in rural Southeast Alabama, a clinical psychologist with the UAB medical system, and Reverend Paul Eknes-Tucker, senior pastor at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Birmingham, all of whom could face severe criminal penalties if the law were allowed to go into effect. The U.S. Department of Justice has also joined the suit as plaintiff-intervenor challenging the constitutionality of the law which would deny established medical treatments to youth who are transgender but not to others.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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