MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Thursday approved sweeping legislation banning gender-affirming drugs for transgender youth, along with a separate measure establishing rules on school restrooms and banning early classroom instruction on gender. sexual and gender identity – a bill that critics have dubbed ‘don’t say gay’.
The bills now go to Republican Governor Kay Ivey for her review as Alabama becomes the latest red state to seek legislation and policies aimed at trans youth. Ivey, who is running for re-election, has not indicated whether she will sign the measures.
The House of Representatives voted 66 to 28, largely along party lines, to grant final approval to legislation that would make it a crime for a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers, hormones or perform surgery to help with gender transition for anyone under the age of 19. Violations would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Representative Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the Alabama Legislative Assembly, appeared to be struggling to contain his anger and stay calm as lawmakers headed for the vote.
“That’s wrong,” Rafferty said. “You all sit there and campaign for the family to be the foundation of our nation…but what this bill does totally undermines that. This totally undermines 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 aren’t old enough to make decisions about gender-affirming drugs.
“Their brains aren’t developed to make long-term decisions about what these drugs and surgeries are doing to their bodies,” Allen said.
Rep. Chris England, who is chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said the measure targets already vulnerable children and essentially tells them they are not welcome in Alabama.
“You say it’s about children. It’s not. This is about scoring political points and using these children as collateral damage,” England said.
The bill would also require school counselors, nurses and others to notify parents if a child reveals they think they are transgender.
A spokeswoman for Ivey did not immediately respond to a text message asking if the governor will sign the measure.
“I want the governor to know that she doesn’t have to sign this, she can veto it,” Jeff Walker, whose 15-year-old daughter, Harleigh, is transgender, said Thursday afternoon. “All you’re doing is hurting Alabama families with these bills.”
Arkansas approved a similar law in 2021, but it was suspended by the courts. Advocacy groups in Alabama have pledged to quickly challenge the measure if Ivey signs it.
In a written statement, Chase Strangio, deputy director of Trans Justice for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, called Alabama’s measure “the most deadly, sweeping, and hostile law targeting transgender people in the nation.”
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that the US Justice Department has warned states that such laws and policies could violate the Constitution and federal law.
“Today’s vote in Alabama will only serve to harm children,” she said.
Lawmakers on Thursday approved separate legislation regarding public school restrooms and discussions of gender and sexual identity in the early years.
Senators voted 26-5 to approve legislation requiring K-12 students to only use multi-person bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender on their original birth certificate, rather than to their current gender identity. Republicans in the Senate have also added similar language to a Florida law that critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” measure.
The Alabama language would “prohibit classroom teaching or discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Alabama’s proposal goes further than Florida’s law, which includes K-3 grades.
“I agree that children in kindergarten through fifth grade should not be introduced to sexual orientation and gender identity, and if they are, it could be from their parents,” said said Republican Rep. Scott Stadthagen of Hartselle.
Stadthagen said he introduced the toilet bill after hearing about schools being threatened with legal action when they offered to let students use faculty toilets. “The lawyer says, no, they identify as that, so that’s the bathroom they’re going to use,” he said.
Rep. Napoleon Bracy, a Prichard Democrat, called the sudden addition of Florida-style language “totally political” as lawmakers head into the primaries in May.
“We can’t keep bullying and targeting people because of who they are,” Bracy said.
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