Alabama governor signs ‘most anti-transgender legislative package ever’ into law

Alabama governor Kay Ivey

Alabama governor Kay Ivey signs sweeping legislation banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth and prohibiting discussions of LGBT+ topics in schools.

The Republican governor signed into law two controversial bills, House Bill 322 (HB 322) and Senate Bill 184 (SB 184), just a day after the state legislature approved both measures. 

SB 184 makes it a felony for anyone to provide gender-affirming care – including puberty blockers, hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries – to trans youth. Anyone convicted under the proposed legislation face a 10-year prison sentence and a steep $15,000 fine, ABC News reported. 

The bill also means that Alabama is now the first state in the US to impose felony criminal penalties on medical professionals who offer gender-affirming treatment to trans youth, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC also warned the bill would also require school personnel to out trans youth to their parents.

HB 322 – which has been dubbed by LGBT+ advocates as a ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill – originally started as legislation that would ban trans K-12 students from using multi-person bathrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. 

But then Republican lawmakers amended the bill to also ban classroom discussions on gender identity or sexual orientation from kindergarten through fifth grade or in a “manner that is not age-appropriate”. 

The Alabama bill goes further than Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which prevents discussions on LGBT+ issues between kindergarten and third grade. Any discussion on LGBT+ topics in older grades in Florida classrooms must be “age appropriate”. 

Ivey said in a statement after signing both bills that these are “very real challenges facing our young people”, especially with “today’s societal pressures and modern culture”.

“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. “We should especially protect our children from these radical, life-altering drugs and surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in life.”

She also went on to declare that “men use the men’s room” and “ladies use the ladies’ room” in Alabama. Ivey added that HB 322 would “ensure our elementary school classrooms remain free from any kind of sex talk”.

She then claimed that it is “misleading” to call it a ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill because she said it is ensuring that young children are not being taught about sex.

“We are talking about five-year-olds for crying out loud,” she said. “We need to focus on what matters – core instruction like reading and math.”

Carmarion D Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director for the HRC, condemned Ivey for choosing to “score political points with radical, far-right voters over the welfare” of trans youth and their families in Alabama.

“The governor and her fellow anti-equality legislators in the state capitol have recklessly passed a bill that goes directly against the best advice of the medical community and intrudes on the rights of parents and families to make their own medical decisions,” Anderson-Harvey said.

She added that Republican lawmakers have also “successfully criminalised” life-saving care that trans youth “need desperately” as well as the “incredible” medical professions who help these young people “each and every day”.

“In doing so they have jeopardised the future of these doctors, families and transgender youth who are all considering what their livelihoods will be in Alabama,” Anderson-Harvey said.

She continued: “The legislative package passed yesterday and signed today is the most anti-transgender legislative package ever passed, combining elements of infamous laws like HB 2 in North Carolina, Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law and even Texas’s cruel executive action from earlier this year.

“Shame on Governor Ivey for being such a political coward that she puts children in harm’s way just to serve her own career.”

The Alabama Senate approved the both HB 322 and SB 184 within just a few hours of each other on Thursday (7 April). 

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, LGBT+ rights and civil rights groups have already promised to bring legal action against SB 184, which would go into effect 30 days after Ivey’s signature.

Sruti Swaminathan, staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said the law firm is “prepared to make” an investment in order to “protect transgender youth, their families and their doctors in Alabama”. As such, Swaminathan warned that Ivey and other lawmakers need to “ask themselves if targeting the healthcare of children is truly worth it”.

The ACLU of Alabama previously stated on Twitter that it would be suing the state if Ivey signed the bill into law.

Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs for LGBT+ suicide prevention group the Trevor Project, also slammed Alabama lawmakers for pushing the “most extreme anti-transgender agenda we’ve seen to date – all within a matter of hours”. 

“These policies are not only cruel and unnecessary, they are unpopular among a majority of Americans,” Ames continued. 

“Criminalising doctors, isolating trans youth from their support systems and stigmatising conversations around LGBTQ identity will only fuel more bullying, anxiety and suicide risk among these youth.”