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Families request 11th Circuit to rehear gender-affirming care case

Alabama lawmakers passed a law last year that would criminalize doctors or parents for helping trans youth access gender-affirming care.

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On Monday, the families of transgender children asked the entire 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to review a three-judge panel’s recent decision that would allow a ban on gender-affirming care to take effect.

Alabama lawmakers passed a law last year that would criminalize doctors or parents for helping trans youth access medical or gender-affirming care. The law — dubbed the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act — would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In May 2022, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke ordered a preliminary injunction, preventing the law from taking effect. In his decision, Burke noted that more than 22 major medical associations endorsed the care “as well-established, evidence-based treatments for gender dysphoria in minors.”

“Enjoining the Act upholds and reaffirms the ‘enduring American tradition’ that parents—not the states or federal courts—play the primary role in nurturing and caring for their children,” Burke wrote.

On Aug. 21, a three-judge panel from the circuit court ruled to lift the preliminary injunction and allow the ban on medical care to take effect. In that decision, U.S. Judge Barbara Lagoa in the opinion wrote that there was no evidence suggesting the “existence of a constitutional right for parents to treat their children with transitioning medications subject to medically accepted standards.”

In their filing to the full appellate court, the lawyers of the families argue that allowing the ban goes against long-standing precedent by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the appellate court concerning parental rights. 

“The panel’s holding that parents have no substantive due process interest in directing their children’s medical care conflicts with centuries of common law and Supreme Court precedent and with decisions of this Court,” the families’ attorneys wrote.

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LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Human Rights Campaign are all representing the families.

“As the district court concluded after hearing days of testimony from parents, doctors, and medical experts, enforcement of Alabama’s criminal transgender healthcare ban will harm thousands of transgender adolescents across Alabama,” said Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights at LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “It will also put Alabama parents in the excruciating position of not being able to get the medical care their children need to thrive. We will support these parents and their kids in pushing back against that dangerous reality on every level.”

As the court deliberates to rehear the case, the ban on medical care will not take effect.

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

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