Federal Court rules employer cannot deny trans health care coverage

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In a 32-page ruling released Friday night, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke barred the state from enforcing the law criminalizing medical care for transgender minors in Alabama.

The law has made it a crime for doctors and licensed healthcare providers to give puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones to transgender minors.

Burke, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, wrote that the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act section that treats minor trans children a crime; “The Court finds that there is a strong likelihood that Section 4(a)(1)-(3) of the Act is unconstitutional and therefore prohibits the Defendants from enforcing that part of the Act pending the court case.”

Judge Burke, however, ruled that all other provisions of the law remain in effect, in particular: (1) the provision that prohibits sex modification surgeries on minors; (2) the provision prohibiting school officials from keeping certain information about children’s gender identity secret from their parents; and (3) the provision that prohibits school authorities from encouraging or coercing children to keep certain information about their parents’ sexual identity secret.

The US Department of Justice had challenged the state’s decision SB 184 – a bill that would criminalize doctors for providing best-practice, gender-affirming care to transgender and non-binary youth.

In the Justice Department filing, the complaint alleges that the new law’s criminal prohibition on providing certain medically necessary care to transgender minors violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ministry is also asking the court to issue an immediate order to prevent the law from coming into effect.

SB 184 makes it a crime for anyone to “engage in or cause” specific types of medical care for transgender minors. SB 184 thus discriminates against young transgender people by denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care.

It further discriminates against transgender youth by denying them access to particular procedures while allowing non-transgender minors to access the same or similar procedures. Penalties for violating the law include up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. SB 184 would force parents of transgender minors, medical professionals and others to choose between forgoing medically necessary procedures and treatments or facing criminal prosecution.

The US complaint alleges that SB 184 violates the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating on the basis of gender and transgender status.

LGBTQ legal rights advocates SPLC, GLAD, NCLR and HRC, joined by co-counsel King & Spalding LLP and Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC, previously had filed a legal challenge in federal district court against Alabama SB 184.

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the legal rights groups that had sued Alabama, told the Blade Friday night:

“We are delighted with this result, which will bring enormous relief to transgender children and their families. As the court acknowledges, this is well-established medical care that has been endorsed by 22 major medical associations. With this ruling, Alabama children can now continue to receive this lifesaving care, and their doctors cannot be sued simply for doing their jobs. This is a huge victory for compassion and common sense and a much needed antidote to the tidal wave of hostile laws targeting these young people.

In addition to the US Department of Justice, doctors challenging SB 184 in Ladinsky v. Ivey are Dr. Morissa J. Ladinsky and Dr. Hussein D. Abdul-Latif, both providers at Children’s Hospital of Alabama and members of the University of Alabama medical staff at Birmingham Hospital and faculty at the UAB School of Medicine. Dr. Ladinsky and Dr. Abdul-Latif have longstanding expertise in caring for transgender children from Alabama families. Under SB 184, they both face criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison if they continue to provide this support to their patients.

The Alabama family plaintiffs are proceeding anonymously to protect their children. They understand Robert Roeand her 13-year-old transgender daughter Married, of Jefferson County; and Jane Doe and her 17-year-old transgender son John, of Shelby County. These families have deep ties to Alabama. If SB 184 is allowed to go into effect, both families will be forced to choose between leaving the state, breaking the law, or facing devastating health consequences for their children.