Two Alabama families filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging a recently passed law that criminalizes medical professionals who provide care to transgender adolescents with up to 10 years in prison. The families say being denied medically necessary care will be devastating for the mental health of their adolescent children. The lawsuit alleges that the new Alabama law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“I know that I am a girl and I always have been,” said 15-year-old H.W. “Even before I learned the word ‘transgender’ or met other trans people, I knew myself. I did not choose to experience bullying and discrimination because I am transgender. I chose to be proud of who I am. The possibility of losing access to my medical care because of this law causes me deep anxiety. I would not feel like myself anymore if this lifesaving medication was criminalized.”
H.W.’s parents Jeff and Lisa Walker say that if their daughter is cut off from her doctor-prescribed health care, the family will have to move away from Alabama, separating H.W. from her older brother Robert who serves in the Alabama National Guard.
“The only controversy in providing lifesaving gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Alabama is the one fabricated by Governor Ivey and the legislators that made this despicable bill into law,” said Carl Charles, senior attorney for Lambda Legal. “Instead of solving actual problems and dedicating taxpayer dollars to improving the lives of the people of their state, our opponents chose to demonize transgender young people and criminalize the doctors, parents, and communities that support them. And because of our lawsuit, Governor Ivey will spend taxpayer dollars to defend this foolish and clearly unconstitutional law.”
A federal court has blocked Arkansas from enforcing a similar law that was passed last year. A state court in Texas has also blocked the state from investigating parents of transgender adolescents receiving gender-affirming care for child abuse.
“Transgender youth are a part of Alabama, and they deserve the same access to treatment and health care from trained medical professionals as any other Alabamian,” said Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director, ACLU of Alabama. “We will fight to make sure this is the reality for trans kids in the future, and we condemn the actions of the lawmakers who voted to use children as political pawns for their reelection campaigns.”
Medical organizations and doctors have repeatedly opposed these bills, along with major businesses. Studies consistently show that transgender children who receive gender-affirming care such as puberty-delaying medication and/or hormones when they are young have better mental health outcomes and report fewer cases of depression, self-harm, and suicide or attempted suicide.
“Like many parents, I had a lot of questions when our daughter first told me she is transgender,” said Jeffrey White, parent of 13-year-old C.W. “Since she began receiving treatment from a doctor, she has become more confident. We still enjoy the same activities as a family, like playing video games. I took the time to learn what it means to have a transgender daughter and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I hope other parents and lawmakers will set aside their fears and listen to doctors and trans youth. With love and support — including medically necessary care — I know she can thrive, and that’s all any parent wants for their kid.”
Like the Walker family, Jeff and Christa are prepared to leave the state rather than allow their daughter to lose access to her health care.
“Transgender youth have the right to affirming healthcare and we will continue to fight for these young people, their families, and the supportive medical providers who want to ensure that transgender youth can live fully as themselves, grow, and thrive,” said Lynly Egyes, legal director at the Transgender Law Center. “Despite the cynical, sinister, and invasive efforts by conservative politicians to interfere with private family and medical decisions for their own cheap political gains, we will fight this in court and we will win. Common sense, common decency, and the constitution are on our side.”
“We are proud to be part of this fight to protect the civil rights of young people and their families,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP. “This legislation poses an unconstitutional threat to the livelihood and well-being of transgender youth and it is our responsibility to be on the right side of justice.”
Handling the case on behalf of Lambda Legal is Senior Attorney Carl Charles, Staff Attorney Sruti J. Swaminathan and Senior Counsel Tara Borelli. They are joined by ACLU’s Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU of Alabama, Transgender Law Center, and Cooley LLP.