Court upholds Alabama ban on child sex-change treatments

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A federal court on Monday upheld an Alabama law banning hormonal sex-change treatments for children under 18. The court’s decision places Alabama among the 14 states to have laws banning sex-changing treatments for children in effect.

The decision, which was made by a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit, only temporarily upholds the ban. The lawsuit against Alabama’s transgender treatments law will continue and be reviewed by the full 11th Circuit Court, with a trial set for April 2, 2024.

The law, called the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, was passed by the Alabama state Legislature in April 2022 and bans sex-changing surgeries and cross-sex hormonal treatments on minors. The law includes criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison for those performing or administering sex-change procedures to children.

The act also prohibits school officials from withholding information from parents whose children are struggling with gender dysphoria or who have expressed a desire to transition to another sex.

Shortly after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the ban into law several parents sued the state on behalf of their transgender children. On May 13, Judge Liles Burke of the Middle District of Alabama blocked the portions of the law that banned cross-sex hormonal treatments.

In his decision, Burke, a Trump appointee, said that portions of the Alabama law are likely unconstitutional and that the hormonal treatment ban presented an “imminent threat” of “severe physical and/or psychological harm” to parents and children.

Burke’s injunction was lifted by the 11th Circuit on Monday, because, the ruling said, “states have a compelling interest in protecting children from drugs, particularly those for which there is uncertainty regarding benefits, recent surges in use, and irreversible effects.”

The three-judge panel also said that it is “highly doubtful” that the portions of the law blocked by Burke would not withstand constitutional review.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who has been advocating for the law in court, celebrated the 11th Circuit’s decision in a Tuesday press release, saying it was “a significant victory for our country, for children, and for common sense.”

“The Eleventh Circuit reinforced that the state has the authority to safeguard the physical and psychological well-being of minors, even if the United States attorney general and radical interest groups disapprove,” Marshall added. “Alabama takes this responsibility seriously by forbidding doctors from prescribing minors sex-modification procedures that have permanent and often irreversible effects.”

Meanwhile, organizations advocating for transgender surgeries and treatments in Alabama decried the 11th Circuit panel’s decision.

Though calling the decision “disappointing,” a joint statement by the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, and Human Rights Campaign said that “while this is a setback, we are confident that it is only a temporary one.”

“Every federal district court that has heard the evidence presented in these cases has come to the same conclusion: These medical treatments are safe, effective, and lifesaving for some youth, and there is no legitimate reason to ban them,” the LGBTQ+ groups said. “We believe that at the end of the day, our nation’s courts will protect these vulnerable youth and block these harmful laws, which serve no purpose other than to prevent parents from obtaining the medical care their children need.” 

What states protect children from transgender treatments? 

Currently, there are 14 states with active bans on transgender treatments for children. Additionally, four states have bans soon to take effect and three more have bans that are currently blocked.

The states banning sex-changing treatments on children are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.

Additional bans in Texas, Louisiana, Idaho, and Missouri are set to take effect in the coming months and year.

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Though laws stopping transgender treatments on children have been passed in Arkansas, Georgia, and Indiana, these have been blocked by federal district judges.

Judge Sarah Geraghty of the Northern District of Georgia blocked Georgia’s ban on transgender surgeries and treatments on Monday.

Geraghty blocked the state’s ban on the grounds it presented “imminent” risks of “depression, anxiety, disordered eating, self-harm, and suicidal ideation” to minors.

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