Civil rights groups and LGBTQ advocates described the laws Alabama passed Thursday as attacks against transgender youth in the state. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
April 7 (UPI) -- On the final day of the legislative session, Alabama lawmakers on Thursday sent a pair of controversial partisan legislation civil rights and LGBTQ groups say are an attack against transgender youth to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey to be signed into law.
The bills were passed amid state-level Republicans throughout the country pushing hundreds of bills concerning the rights of the LGBTQ community, about half of which specifically target transgender youth, including restricting their access to healthcare and the their ability to play on school sports teams.
The Alabama legislature on Thursday passed House Bill 322 that bans transgender students from K-12 public school bathrooms and changing rooms that align with their gender identity. A last minute amendment to the bill also prohibited classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through Grade 5.
It passed the House 70-26 along party lines with not a single Democrat voting in support of the bill and not a single Republican voting against it. The Senate similarly passed it 24-6 earlier in the day.
The last minute amendment echos the so-called Don't Say Gay legislation that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law late last month and which has been met with a lawsuit from civil rights organizations who call it "cruel" and a "grave abuse of power."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama described H.B. 322 and the 11th-hour amendment as part of a systematic and expanding attack against transgender people that discriminates against them based on their transgender status and sex.
"The passage of this bill sends a message to vulnerable transgender youth that they are not welcome or accepted in their communities," Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director for the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement. "It also exposes school districts and the state to costly litigation and the potential loss of federal funding for education."
The lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 184 that criminalizes medical professionals with up to 10 years in prison for performing a medical procedure of prescribing medication to a minor that is intended to alter the patient's gender or delay puberty.
The bill -- which is considered one of the most restrictive bills concerning transgender people in the country -- also requires school teachers, counselors and administrative officials to tell the parent or guardian of a minor "information related to the minor's perception that his or her gender or sex is inconsistent" with their biological sex.
S.B. 184 passed the House 66-28 and the Senate 24-6, both along party lines.
The Republican bill argues that such medical procedures and medication harm minors and that a "wait-and-see approach" to children who show signs of gender nonconformity will see a large majority "resolving to an identity congruent with their sex by late adolescence."
"Minors, and often their parents, are unable to comprehend and fully appreciate the risk and life implications, including permanent sterility, that result from the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgical procedures," it states.
The ACLU, the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center and Cooley LLP said they will take the state to court.
"The Alabama legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey need to consider the time and resources they will invest, not to mention the stain of discrimination that often means lost opportunity and investment, and ask themselves if targeting the healthcare of children is truly worth it because we are prepared to make that investment in order to protect transgender youth, their families and their doctors in Alabama," Sruti Swaminathan, staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said in a statement.
The bills were passed a week after the Department of Justice sent a letter to state attorneys warning them against preventing transgender or non-binary youth from receiving gender-affirming care.
"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all children are able to live free from discrimination, abuse and harassment," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke wrote in the letter that states transgender youth are protected against discrimination under federal constitutional and statutory provisions.
The American Medical Association last year also urged governors to oppose such legislation prohibiting "medical necessary gender transition-related care" for minors, stating such efforts are "a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine."
"Decisions about medical care belong within the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship," it said.
According to Human Rights Campaign, the United States' largest LGBTQ advocacy group, more than 300 bills regarding the LGBTQ community have been introduced nationwide this year with about half concerning transgender youth.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki commented on the Republican push of such legislation, stating that discriminatory bills have been put on notice by the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services that such legislation may violate the Constitution and federal law.
"What are these policies actually trying to solve for?" she asked "LGBTQI+ people can't be erased or forced back into any closets, and kinds across our nation should be allowed to be who they are without the threat that their parents or their doctor could be imprisoned simply for helping them and loving them."