The US justice department has joined an effort to strike down a new Alabama law that makes it a felony to provide transgender children with certain kinds of medical care.
The ban is discriminatory, violating the equal protection clause embedded in the 14th amendment to the US constitution, the federal government argued in a court filing on Friday.
Alabama Senate Bill 184 “denies necessary medical care to children based solely on who they are”, the filing in federal district court in Huntsville said.
Besides asking that the law be deemed unconstitutional, justice department lawyers asked for an order stopping it taking effect.
Alabama lawmakers passed SB 184 this month. It makes it a felony for anyone “to engage in or cause” so-called gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender people 18 or younger, including what are colloquially known as puberty blockers.
Offenders including medical professionals and parents could get up to 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
The US justice department argues that the law is unconstitutional because non-transgender minors can legally access the same or similar procedures, meaning only transgender children are barred.
“SB 184 would force parents of transgender minors, medical professionals, and others to choose between forgoing medically necessary procedures and treatments or … criminal prosecution,” the justice department contended.
“SB 184 violates the equal protection clause by discriminating on the basis of sex and transgender status.”
The Alabama law is part of a wave of restrictions aimed at transgender youth in Republican-led states, despite medical professionals recommending gender-affirming care for people who identify as transgender, meaning a gender that is different from the one assigned at birth.
The families of two transgender teens, along with a pair of doctors, have filed a federal lawsuit against Alabama which seeks to have SB 184 stricken from the books. The filing from the US justice department essentially serves as notice from the federal government that it is supporting the plaintiffs.
In a statement to the news website AL.com, the office of the Alabama governor, Kay Ivey, said the state was “prepared to defend … our values and this legislation”.
The site also quoted the state attorney general, Steve Marshall, as saying Joe Biden’s administration “has chosen to prioritize leftist politics at the expense of Alabama’s children”.
“The science and common sense are on Alabama’s side,” Marshall added. “We will win this fight to protect our children.”