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Alabama Court: Don’t Criminalize Us for Helping Our Kids

Earlier this year, we sued to stop a dangerous Alabama law that would criminalize parents who seek lifesaving healthcare for their transgender children, as well as doctors and other medical professionals who provide that care.

With our partners, we filed Reverend Eknes-Tucker v. Marshall on behalf of local families, medical providers, and the Pastor of a Birmingham church. In May, a federal judge stopped Alabama from enforcing the law while our lawsuit continues, enabling trans youth to continue to get the vital healthcare they need to thrive.

Now, as the 11th Circuit considers whether to continue blocking the law, more parents of transgender youth are sharing their stories with the court. 

In their friend-of-the-court brief, parents described the importance of being able to seek the best medical advice and care to support their children’s well-being, and how they have seen their children flourish with access to the right care.

Medical experts, faith groups, and 21 U.S. states also filed briefs urging the Appeals Court to keep the bar on Alabama’s law in place.

Excerpts from the Parents’ brief:

When their children came out to them as transgender, each one of these parents was surprised, scared, and confused. Their very first step was to make sure their child knew that they would never stop loving and supporting them, and then they set out to determine what they needed to do to protect and ensure their child’s health and safety. This included seeking professional medical assistance to determine whether their child was, in fact, suffering from gender dysphoria and, if so, to devise a treatment plan.

Laura and Brian Coe, parents of 15-year-old Matthew (proceeding anonymously)

As much as Matthew has benefitted simply from being accepted and affirmed by his family, school, doctors, and friends, his medical transition is a critical measure for his well-being…Since obtaining the medical care that he needs, Laura and Brian have seen Matthew begin to “come to life.” The Coes would “worry for Matthew’s safety” if there were a disruption to his care. They are “simply trying to support their child and provide him with the best care possible.”

Melissa Soe, parent of 15-year-old Taylor (proceeding anonymously)

Since coming out and receiving care, Taylor has gone from “an anxious, sad kid who had a hard time getting up in the morning, to a kid who is up and out on their bike, in the woods, and going to camp.” Taylor is finally beginning to remind their parents of the happy-go-lucky kid they were when they were younger, prior to puberty taking its toll…” [It is] very important to Taylor to have continuity of care,” which would be disrupted by implementation of [SB 184]. Simply knowing that such care is accessible has significantly decreased Taylor’s distress.

Cynthia Lamar-Hart, parent of Gwendolyn who began receiving transition-related care while an adolescent living in Alabama and is now in her late 20s

Because access to care was not available in Alabama at the time, the family had to travel out-of-state:

[E]ven with the means to afford and make time for out-of-state treatment, Cynthia witnessed how …  months of delays in Gwendolyn’s care resulted in suffering that she would not have experienced had she been able to visit a clinic in-state. Cynthia quickly saw a change in Gwendolyn after she began receiving transition-related care. Once Gwendolyn began the process of transitioning, she was no longer withdrawn, and became more confident and engaged socially and at school.

Joining these parents in asking the Court of Appeals to continue blocking enforcement of Alabama’s law are:

  • Scientists and clinicians with extensive expertise in the recognized standards of care for adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria. These seven scientists/clinicians have more than 57 years of clinical practice and have treated more than 2,100 transgender youth.
  • Religious organizations including the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Southeast Conference of The United Church of Christ.
  • 21 U.S. states that have adopted policies protecting access to healthcare and prohibiting discrimination against transgender youth and adults.
  • The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ young people.

Find the briefs and other case documents are available on the case page. Oral argument is scheduled for the week of November 14, 2022, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Montgomery, Alabama.