MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal judge on Friday blocked part of an Alabama law that made it a felony to prescribe gender-affirming puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors.
U.S. District Judge Liles Burke granted a preliminary order to prevent the state’s enforcement of the medication ban. The ban took effect on May 8th, while the lawsuit continues. Families and advocates groups that challenged this first-of-its kind law for illegal interference in family and medical decision-making won the ruling. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey referred to the ruling as a “temporary legal roadblock.” Alabama’s state attorney general indicated he will appeal.
“This ruling means that parents of transgender children in Alabama will continue to be able to make the healthcare decisions that are best for their families. This is an amazing relief. Parents should not be punished for wanting to do what’s best for their kids,” said Jennifer Levi, director of the transgender rights project for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
Vulnerable child compassion and protection Act makes it a crime to provide or give gender-affirming medication for transgender minors in order to support their identity. Judge rescinded another provision that prohibited gender-affirming operations for minors of transgender, as doctors testified they are not performed in Alabama. A provision that required counselors or other school personnel to inform parents of a child’s identity as transgender requires him to leave in place.
“We will continue fighting to protect Alabama’s children from these radical, unproven, life-altering drugs, despite this temporary legal road block,” Ivey said in a statement issued Saturday morning. “It is especially important while they are at such a vulnerable stage in life. We will continue to uphold our duty to ensure that children are free to grow up into the adults God intended them to be, even with today’s societal pressures and modern culture.”
A spokesman said Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is disappointed in the court’s decision “and is already working on filing an appeal in defense of the law.”
The Alabama law was challenged by four families with transgender kids, ranging from 12-17 years old. In an attempt to invalidate the law, the U.S. Department of Justice was also involved in the case.
Burke — nominated to the court by former President Donald Trump in 2017 — ruled that Alabama had produced no credible evidence to show that transitioning medications are “experimental.”
He added that “the uncontradicted record evidence is that at least twenty-two major medical associations in the United States endorse transitioning medications as well-established, evidence-based treatments for gender dysphoria in minors.” He noted testimony from a mother who said she feared her child would commit suicide if she lost access to the medications.
“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 in the opinion.
Jeff Walker of Auburn, Alabama, told The Associated Presss on Saturday that the ruling “took a lot of weight off our shoulders.” The Walker family is not one of the plaintiffs in the case but said they had been scrambling to figure out how to continue care for their 15-year-old daughter, Harleigh, and if they needed to move to another state.
Harleigh Walker said the decision was a “huge stress relief.”
The legislation was part of a wave of bills in Republican-controlled states regarding transgender minors, but was the first to levy criminal penalties against the doctors who provide the medications. Arkansas’s judge stopped a similar law from taking effect.
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician who founded a Birmingham medical team that treats children with gender dysphoria, said the decision was a, “huge relief for transgender children and their families.”
“The court’s decision recognizes that this is well established care that has been endorsed by 22 major medical associations. This decision will ensure transgender children in Alabama, and beyond, can continue to receive this evidence-based well-known life-saving care,” she said.
Burke was urged to repeal the law by more than 20 mental and medical health organisations.
Fifteen states filed a brief in the case in support of Alabama’s law.
The state attorney general’s office argued that the use of the medications is unsettled science, and thus the state has a role in regulation to protect children. State attorneys claimed that European countries have a less conservative approach to medication during a Burke court hearing. Alabama lawmakers approved the legislation this spring. However, they stated that the decision on medications should not be taken before an adult is born.
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