Alabama Parents, Joined by Minister and Medical Providers, Seek Emergency Court Order Blocking Law that Will Criminalize their Transgender Children’s Ongoing Medical Care

Facing criminal penalties and a devastating loss of essential medical care for their children, four Alabama parents from across the state, joined by two medical providers and Rev. Eknes-Tucker of Pilgrim UCC Church in Birmingham will ask a federal court to block SB 184 from taking effect

Four Alabama parents are asking a federal court to stop SB 184 from taking effect on May 8, saying the law strips them of the right to make important decisions about their children’s healthcare. SB 184 punishes parents and their children’s doctors for providing – or even suggesting – well-established essential medical care for their transgender children. The punishment can include up to 10 years in prison.

The new legal challenge, Rev. Eknes-Tucker v. Ivey was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama – Northern Division. Because the plaintiffs face criminal penalties and a dangerous loss of necessary medical care for their children under SB 184 they will ask the court to block the law from going into effect while their case against it proceeds.

Joining four Alabama parents in their challenge to SB 184 are a private practice pediatrician in rural Southeast Alabama, a clinical psychologist with the UAB medical system, and Reverend Paul Eknes-Tucker, Senior Pastor at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Birmingham.

The families asking the court to block the law come from across the state and are proceeding anonymously due to the risk of criminal prosecution under SB 184. They are Brianna Boe and her 12-year-old transgender son, Michael Boe of Montgomery; James Zoe and his 13-year-old transgender son Zachary Zoe of Birmingham; Megan Poe and her 15-year-old transgender daughter Allison Poe of Northern Alabama; and Kathy Noe and her 17-year-old-transgender son Christopher Noe of Eastern Alabama.

The two medical providers are also proceeding anonymously due to the risk of criminal prosecution.

“As a minister I counsel parents with transgender children about how best to love and support their children. Under SB 184, those conversations now come with a risk of criminal prosecution,” said Reverend Paul Eknes-Tucker, who has served as Senior Pastor at historic Pilgrim Church UCC since 2015. “This dangerous law is an unthinkable infringement on parental rights and the freedom of pastors and other faith leaders to counsel their own parishioners. This law is destructive not only to families in Alabama, but to the freedoms and values Alabamians hold dear.”

“I know people who don’t have a transgender child may not understand my experience. I have done everything I can to learn about what my daughter is going through, and being able to seek guidance from our pediatrician and medical specialists was a turning point for our family,” said Megan Poe, mother of 15-year-old Allison of Northern Alabama. “With that support and care Allison has become a confident and social teenager who is thriving in school. Without it, I’m terrified she will again become withdrawn, depressed, or even worse. I only want what’s best for my daughter, like any parent. For the state to take away my ability to provide that essential care and support is unthinkable.”

“Our family is challenging this cruel law because it infringes on our ability as parents to ensure our child receives appropriate medical care, and targets transgender youth simply for being transgender,” said James Zoe, father of 13-year-old Zachary of Birmingham. “We have the choice to leave our home state of Alabama, or stay and fight. We have chosen to fight for our child and for all transgender children in Alabama. In the end, we believe this unfair law will be overturned and we will be able to continue providing our child with the medical care he needs.”

“Parents come to me seeking trusted medical advice but under SB 184 both I and the parents consulting me are subject to a prison sentence for even discussing the best recommendations for supporting their children’s health,” said Dr. Rachel Koe, pediatrician in private practice in rural Southeast Alabama. “SB 184 criminalizes effective, established medical treatment that is recognized as the standard of care in the medical field, including by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.”

The plaintiffs in Rev. Eknes-Tucker v. Ivey are represented by Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC, King & Spalding LLP, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

“The parents challenging this law, like all parents, want what’s best for their kids, but SB 184 punishes them for that. This is a dangerous law that undermines the ability of Alabama parents to make the best healthcare decisions for their families,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director. 

“Allowing SB 184 to go into effect will cause enormous stress and harm to families across Alabama. A state should not criminalize parents and doctors for following medical guidelines and providing needed medical treatments,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney and Transgender Youth Project Director Asaf Orr.

“SB 184 disregards the well-being of transgender youth in Alabama and disrespects the rights of parents who under this law are prohibited from seeking the best possible care for their children,” said Scott McCoy, SPLC Interim Deputy Legal Director LGBTQ Rights & Special Litigation.

“These care providers and families want nothing more than to do what’s best for their children, yet SB 184 threatens them with criminal penalties for providing critically important care that is often life-saving for transgender youth,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC Legal Director.

Follow the case page for the latest updates.

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