MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Thursday approved sweeping legislation to outlaw gender-affirming medications for trans kids and advanced separate legislation to prohibit classroom instruction on sexual and gender identity in early grades — a measure that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
The Alabama House of Representatives voted 66-28 for legislation to make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones or perform surgery to aid in the gender transition of people under age 19. The bill now goes to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature as Alabama becomes the latest red state to debate legislation and policies aimed at trans youth.
Rep. Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the Alabama Legislature, appeared to struggle to hold back his anger and maintain composure as lawmakers headed to the vote.
“This bill should not pass,” Rafferty said. “This is wrong. Y’all sit here and campaign on family … but what this bill is, is totally undermining family rights, health rights and access to health care.”
Republican Rep. Wes Allen of Troy, sponsor of the House version of the bill, argued during debate Thursday morning that transgender youth are not old enough to make decisions about gender-affirming medication.
“Their brains are not developed to make the decisions long term about what these medications and surgeries do to their body,” Allen said.
Rep Chris England, who also serves as chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said the measure targets already vulnerable children and essentially tells them they are not welcome in Alabama.
“You’re saying this is about children. It’s not. What it is about is scoring political points and using those children as collateral damage,” England said.
The bill would also require school counselors, nurses and others to tell parents if a child discloses they believe they are transgender.
A similar law banning medications in Arkansas was put on hold by the courts, and advocacy groups vowed to quickly challenge the Alabama measure if signed into law.
“If passed and signed into law, Alabama will have the most deadly, sweeping, and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice has warned states such laws and policies may violate the Constitution and federal law.
“Today’s vote in Alabama will only serve to harm kids,” she said.
The Alabama Senate advanced separate legislation related to public school bathrooms and discussions of gender and sexual identity in early grades.
Senators voted 26-5 to approve legislation mandating that K-12 students can only use multiperson bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with the gender on their original birth certificate, rather than their current gender identity.
Republicans in the Senate also added language similar to a law in Florida that critics called the “Don’t Say Gay”measure.
The Alabama language would “prohibit classroom instruction or discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade in public K-12 schools.”
The Alabama proposal goes further than Florida’s law, which extends to the third grade.