An Alabama law that makes it a felony to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors has been blocked by a federal judge while affirming other aspects of the state’s “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act”.
US district judge Liles Burke issued a preliminary injunction to stop the state from enforcing the medication ban, which took effect on 8 May, while a lawsuit against the bill goes forward.
Advocates for gender-affirming medication for minors, who challenged the law as an unlawful intrusion into family and medical decisions, welcomed the ruling.
“It is an extraordinary relief,” said Jennifer Levi, director of the transgender rights project for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “Parents should not be punished for wanting to do what’s best for their kids.”
The ruling maintains Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming surgeries for transgender minors – which are not performed on minors in the state – as well as a provision that requires counselors and other school officials to tell parents if a minor discloses that they think they are transgender.
Educators and school nurses are not allowed to withhold – or “encourage or coerce” students to withhold – from their parents “the fact that the minor’s perception of his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with the minor’s sex”, Burke wrote in his opinion.
The state’s attorney general’s office had argued that the use of the medications is unsettled science, and thus the state has a role in regulation to protect children.
The judge also ruled that Alabama had produced no credible evidence to show that transitioning medications are “experimental” while, “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.”
Burke added that “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”.
Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, who has said decisions on the medications should wait until adulthood – “I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl”, she said last month – described the ruling as a “temporary legal roadblock”. The state attorney general, Steve Marshall, indicated he will appeal.
Alabama’s law banning child gender transition has received support from 15 states, including Texas where the attorney general, Ken Paxton, issued a statement on Wednesday saying he would “support any law in any state that protects vulnerable children from the sexual predations of the left”.
In Arkansas, a judge blocked a similar law before it took 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”.