The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked a federal court to block an Alabama law criminalizing gender-affirming medical care for trans youth, marking the first time the Biden administration has sued a state to stop such a law.
The case could potentially affect trans families in the 15 states that have either passed or are considering similar laws.
The Alabama law, S.B. 184, threatens felony criminal prosecution and jail time to doctors, parents and anyone else who helps provide gender-affirming care to trans youth, including puberty blockers, hormones, and surgery. People charged under the law can face up to 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
Since the law discriminates on the basis of sex and trans identity, the DOJ says the law violates the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment which guarantees equal protection for all citizens under the law. The DOJ has asked the U.S. District Court in Alabama to block the law.
“S.B. 184 thus discriminates against transgender youth by denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care,” the DOJ wrote in a press 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.”
The first scheduled hearing for the lawsuit will take place on May 5. The law was supposed to go into effect on May 8.
When Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the law, she invoked religion and transphobia, stating, “If the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl…. We should especially protect our children from these radical, life-altering drugs and surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in life,” NBC News noted.
Despite Ivey’s beliefs, such laws go against the best practices of trans-related pediatrics outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association. The organizations find that gender-affirming medical care is medically necessary and reduces suicide and depression among trans youth.
On April 11, four families, two doctors, and a member of the clergy filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation as an “unconstitutional violation of… free speech rights and an intrusion into parental decisions,” Gay Times reported.
On March 31, 2022, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division wrote a letter to all state attorneys general, outlining the legal anti-discrimination protections provisions protecting transgender youth.
The bans on gender-affirming care have coincided with Republican-led bans on LGBTQ content in schools and trans youth participation in school sports. Republicans have accused anyone who opposes these laws of pedophilia and child abuse.
This isn’t the Biden administration’s first attempt to stop anti-transgender state laws. The DOJ filed a brief supporting doctors and transgender families suing the state of Arkansas for a similar ban last year.