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The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday challenged a recently enacted Alabama law that criminalizes certain forms of medically necessary gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
The complaint alleges that Alabama’s Senate Bill 184, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey earlier this month, violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by discriminating on the basis of sex and transgender status.
The department is also asking the court to issue an immediate order to prevent the law from going into effect on May 8.
SB 184 not only punishes parents or legal guardians for making decisions about their children’s health care, but it also threatens criminal prosecution and jail time to doctors and other health care providers for offering — or even suggesting — medically necessary care to trans youth under the age of 19.
Punishment can include up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The law “discriminates against transgender youth by denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care,” the department said Friday in a news release. “It further discriminates against transgender youth by barring them from accessing particular procedures while allowing non-transgender minors to access the same or similar procedures.”
Legislation banning medically necessary health care for trans youth has been opposed by health care professionals and major health organizations in the U.S., including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association, which have denounced “these anti-transgender bills,” saying that they “promote discrimination and do harm to students, their families, and their communities.”
Earlier this month, four LGBTQ and civil rights organizations on behalf of Dr. Morissa J. Ladinsky and Dr. Hussein D. Abdul-Latif, providers at the Children’s Hospital of Alabama, as well as the families of two transgender teens, sued the state to overturn the measure.
“By signing SB 184 Governor Ivey has told kind, loving, and loyal Alabama families that they cannot stay here without denying their children the basic medical care they need,” Dr. Ladinsky said in a statement shared with the Daily News.
According to Ladinsky, who has expertise in caring for transgender children in the state, Ivey has “undermined the health and well-being of Alabama children and put doctors like me in the horrifying position of choosing between ignoring the medical needs of our patients or risking being sent to prison.”
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Friday’s complaint is the Justice Department’s latest action in an ongoing fight to combat discrimination based on gender identity.
It follows a letter addressed to all state attorneys general reminding them that there are federal constitutional and statutory provisions in place to protect transgender youth against discrimination, including when they are seeking gender-affirming care.
“[The DOJ] is committed to ensuring that transgender youth, like all youth, are treated fairly and with dignity in accordance with federal law,” the letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, read in part.
“This includes ensuring that such youth are not subjected to unlawful discrimination based on their gender identity, including when seeking gender-affirming care,” Clarke wrote.
The letter, issued on Mar 31 — International Transgender Day of Visibility — was designed to work as a reminder “of several important federal constitutional and statutory obligations that flow from these fundamental principles.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, there are more than 320 anti-LGBTQ bills currently under consideration in state legislatures across the country — an all-time high.
Of those, at least 130 directly affect trans people. Most of them focus on transgender youth, banning kids from participating in sports or receiving gender-affirming health care.