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Alabama

Grieving Black mom Camika Shelby inspires hope

“Nigel was my 15-year-old son. He was full of light, full of joy. Losing him—it’s a feeling that still is sometimes too hard to bear”

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Public Justice Students’ Civil Rights Project Director Adele Kimmel (right) and Public Justice client Camika Shelby. (Photo credit: Public Justice)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Camika Shelby wiped away tears listening to Adele Kimmel, Director of Public Justice’s Students’ Civil Rights Project, describe the grieving mother as her “shero” for fighting the “hateful, bigoted political ideology [that] has taken root in our country and is fighting for domination.” 

Camika lost her beloved Black gay 15-year-old son Nigel to suicide on April 18, 2019, after the teen suffered severe, unchecked anti-gay harassment and race discrimination in his freshman year at Alabama’s Huntsville High School. Nigel’s parents and estate subsequently filed a federal lawsuit in 2021 against the Huntsville City Board of Education and school administrator Jo Stafford, alleging that they violated Nigel’s civil and constitutional rights.

According to the family’s legal complaint, Stafford, the school’s lead administrator for the freshman class, knew that Nigel’s classmates were harassing him, telling him to kill himself because he was gay. Instead of protecting him, Stafford allegedly blamed Nigel for the harassment he was experiencing and told Nigel and a classmate to dance to “Black people’s music” to make Nigel feel better. She never told Camika about the anti-gay harassment Nigel suffered at school.  

Last March, Camika reached a settlement that requires the Huntsville City Board of Education to adopt and implement policy and training changes to better protect LGBTQ+ students. 

“There is no amount of money in the world that could ever replace Nigel,” Camika said after the settlement. “You can’t put a price on a child. This lawsuit was about bringing change. It was about acknowledging that there needs to be change. It was about saving someone else’s child so that they don’t have to go through the horrible tragedy that I have. I hope this settlement will help bring about that change.”

Camika Shelby was the surprise guest at Public Justice’s 2023 Annual Gala & Awards in Philadelphia on July 17. “Nobody would have blamed Camika if in the days and weeks following the death of her son, she had chosen to seek privacy and grieve in solitude,” Camika’s attorney Adele Kimmel told the audience. “But she didn’t do that. Instead she stood up, she fought back, and she worked to hold the school district accountable.” 

Kimmel also noted that Camika took action at a time when more than 400 anti-LGBTQ bills have been recently introduced in states around the country, in a place where one of the most anti-transgender legislative packages in history was just passed. 

“I’m sorry about the tears,” Shelby told the Gala audience. “Nigel was my 15-year-old son. He was full of light, full of joy. He had to have been one of the funniest kids. Losing him—it’s a feeling that still is sometimes too hard to bear. But the day I laid my baby to rest, I promised that I wouldn’t stop fighting for him.”

The grieving mother’s gratitude was palpable. 

“The work that you do is life-changing for a lot of us. In the beginning, it was really hard because I received so much backlash. There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it through,” Shelby continued. “But then I met a lady named Adele. All of that changed. From the moment I met her and the rest of the team, I knew that I’m going to be all right because they actually cared….

“This has been the longest road ever,” Camika said. “I’m honored to be standing here today to say I got through it. And because I got through it, it has opened so many doors for me to do so many things in honor of Nigel….I know that there are a lot of parents across the world who have lost a child or multiple children and we never even hear about it. So, the fact that my baby’s story touched so many people and has brought about so many great opportunities — I’m just thankful.”

Watch this short video to catch Camika Shelby’s full remarks to the Public Justice Gala audience:

(Video credit: Public Justice Creative Content Creator Toyo Ubaldo)
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Alabama

Anti-LGBTQ+ hate proves fatal, Baptist pastor dies by suicide

He killed himself after a far-right publication published photos and a story detailing the pastor-mayor’s private and secret life

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Photo Credit: Smiths Station, Alabama Mayor F.L. "Bubba" Copeland/Instagram

SMITHS STATION, Ala. – F.L. “Bubba” Copeland was the duly elected mayor of Smiths Station, a town in Lee County, Alabama. It is part of the neighboring Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area.  Copeland was also pastor of the First Baptist Church of Phenix City, which sits across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus.

By all accounts “Bubba,” as he was known in this small town of 6,756, was very popular, respected and beloved but early Friday evening, Nov. 3, he killed himself after a far-right publication published photos and a story detailing the pastor-mayor’s private and secret life.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told media outlets that Copeland, a married father of three, “took his own life” around 5 p.m. According to the Sheriff, at around 4:15 p.m. CT, his deputies received information regarding the mayor needing a possible welfare check. Deputies found Copeland in the Beulah community area, where a slow pursuit began. Officials say the mayor turned onto Lee Road and pulled over. When he exited his vehicle, he produced a handgun and used it to take his own life.

The tragic death of the pastor-mayor stemmed from an article published by writer Craig Monger on the far-right wing media website 1819 News earlier in the week. 1819 News is a website that was once owned by the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative group that is staunchly anti-LGBTQ+ and has filed multiple lawsuits against same-sex marriage.

Monger’s article disclosed Copeland’s secret online social media alter persona Brittini Blaire Summerlin, which listed Copeland self labeled as a ‘transitioning’ transgender woman. Monger goes on to publish screenshots of other photos and entries including some photos that 1819 News alerted readers with the caution: “WARNING: EXPLICIT PHOTOS.”

Copeland told Monger that he could confirm that he operated the various social media accounts and it was him who was featured in the photos. He claimed it was only a means of “getting rid of stress” and called the postings a “hobby” and a “fantasy.” The pastor-mayor said his erotica and trans persona was “purely fiction.”

According to Monger, after the interview, Copeland promptly deleted the accounts and asked them not to be made public due to his family and position as a Baptist pastor.

The day the article was published online, that evening Copeland delivered a sermon from the pulpit at his church telling his congregation:

“The article is not who or what I am….I apologize for any embarrassment caused by my private and personal life that has become public. This will not cause my life to change. This will not waiver my devotion to my family, serving my city, serving my church,” Copeland said.

He then read from the 23rd Psalm telling parishioners, “God will always protect you, take care of you,” Copeland said. “He will see you through anything, absolutely anything.”

Columbus ABC News affiliate WTVM 9 reported that reacting to the news of Copeland’s suicide, some people in the community said they were saddened by the news in so many ways.

“Things that were obviously private came out publicly and quite frankly unexpectedly. I can’t imagine, again, what that must be like for the mayor, his family and for anyone who’s been affected by this,” said Kris Patton. “Probably the most heart-wrenching thing about it is the effect that it is going to be on the community.”

“What he did in his personal life… his business, you know,” said Jennifer Schmitt.

Reaction from the Christian anti-LGBTQ+ right groups, however, was unsympathetic.

We have become aware of the alleged unbiblical behavior related to the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Phenix City. We are praying for the leaders of the church family as they seek to determine the truth concerning these accusations. As the people of God, we pray for the pastor and his family as well. We are in consultation with the Russell Baptist Association’s leadership as they endeavor to assist the First Baptist family during this critical time of need,” the Alabama Baptist State Convention and Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions said in a statement to the Alabama Baptist, a news outlet for the state’s Baptist churches.

The former Phenix City Schools Superintendent Larry DiChiara angrily posted on his personal Facebook page:

“I am so angry right now and heartbroken. I witnessed a good man be publicly ridiculed and crucified over the last few days to the point that he just took his own life today. I just want to ask you people who thought it humorous to publicly ridicule him, “Are you happy now?” What crime did he commit?”

Prominent South Florida pastor and biblical scholar Kevin M. Young posted on X-formerly Twitter: “This pastor committed suicide not too far from here today. We must end LGBTQ+ persecution.”

Hemant Mehta, who authors the progressive website the Friendly Atheist, researched Copeland prior to learning of his suicide on Friday. Mehta noted; “There’s a story making the rounds about an Alabama preacher/mayor who secretly dresses in drag and adopts the persona of a trans woman on social media. The problem? It’s not clear he’s a hypocrite. If he’s not a bigot, why is he being outed?”

Mehta and others who dug into Copeland’s background found absolutely no evidence of anti-LGBTQ+ animus from the pastor-mayor’s social media and other sources. Mehta writes:

As far as I can tell, there’s no evidence that Copeland himself has ever participated in those right-wing attacks. I have yet to see a sermon clip where he rails against drag queens or trans people. I can’t find a single policy he’s promoted as mayor that would make life worse for the LGBTQ community. (All of those things may exist, to be clear, but I haven’t found them yet.)

The article in 1819 News never once mentions a single example of his hypocrisy… which seems like an odd omission given the way the article is framed. If this was a slam-dunk story, all those images of Copeland dressing as a woman would be followed by screenshots of, say, his anti-LGBTQ social media posts. But you won’t find anything like that in the article.

If there’s no proof of hypocrisy, then why the hell is this a story?!

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Alabama

Angered by LGBTQ+ lecture, state GOP lawmakers threaten funds

Republican lawmakers say state-funded departments shouldn’t be talking about anything related to sexual orientation

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Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Pruitt)

MONTGOMERY, AL. – A contingent of Alabama Republican Senate lawmakers led by State Sen. Chris Elliott, are filing a bill that will divert $5 million in critical funds from the Alabama Department of Archives and History over its refusal to not hold a noontime lecture focused on LGBTQ+ history this past month in recognition of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

“Invisible No More: Alabama’s LGBTQ+ History” was presented on June 15 by the Invisible Histories Project, a nonprofit research group that works to preserve and teach LGBTQ+ history in the South.

Elliott and ten other Republican lawmakers were angered by the presentation, saying it was inappropriate for a state agency to hold an event and that it pushed a liberal political agenda. He also stressed state-funded departments shouldn’t be talking about anything related to sexual orientation and sex.

According to AL.com, Elliot alleges that: “We’re not trying to blow up Archives and History or anything like that. I, and others, which has turned out to be quite a few co-sponsors so far, are trying to send a message. But at the same time Archives and History does some great work and we want to be cognizant of that as well.”

“They have drawn the attention of appropriators who are not pleased with the conversations they’re having,” Elliott said, adding; “This is the only tool we have left and these are topics that the people we represent are clearly aggravated with.”

Steve Murray, director of the Archives and History, said the presentation was not political.

“Not every program will be of interest to every Alabamian, but we strive to ensure that Alabamians will find somewhere in our offerings some historical content that is meaningful to them,” he said. “Our aim is neither indoctrination nor politicization.”

At the end of June, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey had announced a special session to create a new Congressional district map to comply with the June 8 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which ordered Alabama officials to redraw the state’s congressional map to allow an additional Black majority district to account for the fact that the state is 27% Black.

The Governor told lawmakers: “It is of the utmost importance that this special session only address the congressional map and nothing else. The task at hand is too urgent and too important,” according to the Alabama Political Reporter.

The special session began on July 17, with most eyes on the attempt to create a new Congressional district map that will comply with the High Court’s order and must be approved by July 21 for the courts, or else a special master may be called in to draw the maps.

But the Alabama Political Reporter noted, that isn’t stopping Elliot from moving forward with a bill to defund the state archives.

“It will require (a two-thirds vote) but I don’t believe that will be a problem,” he said. “I’ve successfully worked bills like this before in a special session like the vaccine exemption legislation.”

Food for Thought: “Invisible No More: Alabama’s LGBTQ+ History”

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Alabama

Alabama extends ban on trans female athletes to universities

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama”

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Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey, (Left) with Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday signed House Bill 261 which limits transgender students to playing sports in public colleges and universities only with “their biological sex assigned at birth.”

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,”  said Governor Ivey in a statement released by her office.

House Bill 261 was approved 26-4 in the Alabama Senate and 83-5 in the House of Representatives. In the vote in the Alabama House over a dozen lawmakers abstained from the vote.

Ivey had previously signed legislation in 2021 banning trans female athletes from competing in K-12 girls sports. At the time she signed that bill the governor had noted that “Alabama remains committed to protecting female athletes at all levels and upholding the integrity of athletics.”

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign said the legislation is part of a “systematic attack against LGBTQ+ people” in Alabama and elsewhere.

“In just two years, [Ivey] and extremist lawmakers in Alabama have passed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills. From dictating what bathrooms we can use to blatantly ignoring the actual problems in women’s sports, these politicians are making Alabama an increasingly hostile place for transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” Anderson-Harvey said.

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Alabama

Alabama GOP moves to ban public drag shows where kids are

“Now they are trying to stifle people’s creativity and stop people from being able to express themselves… when that’s their profession”

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Mobile bar owner Jerry Ehlen is concerned as Alabama lawmakers consider anti-drag bill (Screenshot/YouTube NBC 15 News)

MONTGOMERY – Republican Rep. Arnold Mooney along with five other Republican lawmakers have introduced a measure targeting drag performances by expanding the definition of the state’s existing anti-obscenity laws to include prohibiting “male or female impersonators, commonly known as drag queens or drag kings.”

House Bill 401, would label drag performances as obscene and criminalize drag in K-12 public schools, public libraries, and in other public places where minors are present. If passed and signed into law by Republican Governor Kay Ivey, a new paragraph would be inserted into Alabama’s obscenity law that would now include the following as sexual conduct:

Any sexual or gender oriented material that exposes minors to persons who are dressed in sexually revealing , exaggerated or provocative clothing or costumes, or are stripping or engaged in lewd and lascivious dancing, presentations, or activities, including but not limited to topless, go-go, or exotic dancers, or male of female impersonators, commonly known as drag queens and drag kings. This sexual conduct is prohibited in K-12 public schools, public libraries, and in other places where minors are present.”

In an interview with Mobile, Alabama NBC News affiliate WPMI 15, downtown Mobile LGBTQ bar owner Jerry Ehlen said:

“We are an entertainment business, we are in the entertainment district that Mobile fought for four years,” he says, “and now they are trying to stifle people’s creativity and stop people from being able to express themselves… when that’s their profession. For the most part, that’s how they make their living.”

Ehlen, who owns B-Bob’s, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, pointed out to NBC 15 that the drag queens perform at the bar several nights every week. He acknowledge that the legislation would not criminalize drag performances inside his bar, he worries that the outcome of the law’s passage could stifle Mobile’s large gay community, especially during pride events.

“Mobile has had pride events ever since I can remember,” he says. “It’s always been family inclusive. It’s always been men and women, drag kings and drag queens in attendance, and there’s never been an issue.”

Republican legislators in 16 states have been considering restrictions on drag show performances in what critics say is a wave of anti-LBGTQ legislation. U. S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee ordered a temporary injunction halting a just enacted Tennessee law that criminalizes some drag performances, hours before it was set to take effect April 1. 

A Shelby County-Memphis based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee, claiming the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In his 15 page order issued late Friday evening Parker wrote:

“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution. […] The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark.”

Mobile bar owner concerned as Alabama lawmakers consider anti-drag bill:

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Alabama

Alabama Governor forces head of Dept of Early Childhood Ed out

Governor Kay Ivey labeled it as promoting “woke” concepts & ordered ADECE to remove it from use in the state’s pre-K program

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Dr Barbara Cooper served as Alabama Secretary of Early Childhood Education from 2020 to 2023. (Office of the Governor of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY – A pre-K teacher’s resource book backed by the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education angered Governor Kay Ivey who labeled it as promoting “woke” concepts and ordered ADECE Secretary Barbara Cooper to remove it from use in the state’s pre-K program.

Gina Maiola, communications director for the governor’s office, said Ivey had accepted Cooper’s resignation after Cooper refused to pull the book. The book that caused the controversy is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Developmentally Appropriate Practice Book, 4th Edition. It focuses on teaching children up to age of 8.

Cooper had reviewed and endorsed the book according to the NAEYC website:

“This work fully supports our practice in the field of early learning and care. Educators of children from birth to age 8 will use this information to learn applicable skills for teaching through developmentally appropriate practices that build brains during the critical first five years of life. —Barbara J. Cooper, Secretary, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education”

The governor’s ire had been raised by issues addressed in the book such as LGBTQ+ equality, white privilege, and racism.

The Alabama Reflector, an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics, did a review of the book, running over 800 pages in electronic form, found it focused on encouraging teachers to be aware of inequities, implicit bias and the diverse backgrounds of children in order to be better teachers and create welcoming environments for their students. 

The book does not appear to tell teachers to discuss these issues with children directly.

“Teachers need to be particularly aware of providing supporting environments and responses to children who are members of marginalized groups and those who have been targets of bias and stereotyping,” one passage said.

2022 University of California Irvine study found that roughly 30% of the gap between Black and white young adult criminal justice outcomes can be linked to school discipline. A 2021 study from the American Psychological Association found 26% of the Black students in their sample received a suspension for a minor infraction, while only 2% of the white kids did.

Discussions of white privilege were included in a passage that said equity allows students to reach full potential. A discussion of “structural racism” was included to tell early childhood educators to make their classrooms welcoming to all children.

“Early learning settings are one of the central handful of places where children begin to see how they are represented in society,” the book says. “Thus, the early learning setting can be a place of affirmation and healing for children, or it can be a space of trauma, terror and exclusion. Educators must work to ensure that it is the former.”

The book also reminds teachers that Black students suffer far severe disciplinary actions than white students, and encourages them to be mindful of those disparities. A 2021 study from the American Psychological Association found 26% of the Black students in their sample received a suspension for a minor infraction, while only 2% of the white kids did.

Gov. Kay Ivey waves to the crowd during her State of the State address on March 7, 2023. (Stew Milne for ALabama Reflector)

The book says this makes Black students “less likely to be actively involved in acquiring academic knowledge and skills, socializing with other children, and interacting with teachers.”

“As a result, far too many Black boys are denied genuine opportunities to achieve at high levels because of an unwelcoming classroom climate that contributes to inequity and negative assumptions based on race and gender,” the book says.

When LGBTQIA+ identities are mentioned, it is a reminder to teachers that families are different.

“Children from all families (e.g. single parent, grandparent-led, foster, LGBTQIA+) need to hear and see messages that promote equality, dignity and worth,” the book said. “Providing support and encouragement for personal expression and nongendered play – that is, honoring children’s ideas and choices with respect to gender roles and play – also teaches children acceptance and communicates their value within the classroom community.”

The book promotes teaching understanding.

 “An affirmation of children’s identities is critical because children derive a sense of pride, self-worth, and consistency from their social and cultural identities,” the book said.“For example, including books that explore and celebrate different types of hair, different skin colors, and a range of abilities helps to shape a child’s positive self-identity, contributing to feelings of belonging and fostering a sense of caring for others.”

Cooper was appointed to the position in July 2020.

Dr. Jan Hume will serve as the interim secretary of the ADECE while Governor Ivey decides on a permanent secretary to lead the department in the immediate future.

The legislature is considering legislation by Rep. Ed Oliver that would ban state agencies from teaching and promoting divisive concepts.

Additional reporting by Jemma Stephenson, who covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector.

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Alabama

LGBTQ-affirming charter school targeted by GOP candidate hires security

“The faculty put on a drag show for children. That’s not education, it’s exploitation. It’s got to stop. It’s time to fight back”

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LGBTQ+ affirming Magic City Acceptance Academy entrance stairwell (Photo via Facebook)

HOMEWOOD, Al. – A rarity in a state whose Governor just signed a slate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills including a law that will make treating Trans minors a felony, an LGBTQ-affirming charter school in suburban Birmingham is the focus of anti-LGBTQ attack adverts by a Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Michael Wilson, principal of the Magic City Acceptance Academy, told Alabama news outlet AL.com on Wednesday that a TV ad running in support of Republican governor hopeful Tim James is “scaring the hell out of our kids,” and he’s calling for it be removed. In the meantime, security has been added at the school that opened last fall he told AL.com.

James, who is campaigning to replace incumbent Governor Kay Ivey, targeted the school due to its billing itself as a one-of-its-kind charter school that, while open to all students, is “LGBTQ-affirming,” according to AL.com.

In his television campaign ad, James called this “exploitation” of children and “not education.”

James also blasted the school on Twitter: “For a public school like Magic City Acceptance Academy to use $2 million of our state tax dollars to host drag queen shows for kids should anger every parent, grandparent and taxpayer in Alabama.” In another post James went after principal Wilson and the school’s faculty and staff:

“The Tim James ad is nothing short of an adult bullying children,” said Wilson, 69, who oversees a school of approximately 240 students in grades 6-12. “It’s causing more anxiety. You are talking about kids who are four times more likely than their straight counterparts with suicide ideation.”

The ad is also angering LGBTQ+ supporters in Alabama, whose concerns about safety for the state’s LGBTQ+ youth is growing after last week’s legislative actions. These include the governor’s signing of House Bill 322 which bans K-12 students from using bathrooms and school facilities consistent with their gender identity and enacts a bill similar to one recently enacted in Florida with “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” provisions for classroom instruction in grades K-5.

Governor Ivey also signed SB 184 – a bill that would criminalize doctors for providing best-practice, gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary youth.

The campaign ad is a 30-second spot that starts off with James claiming, “there is a war going on between common sense and crazy.” He then criticizes transgender athletes and Ketanji Brown Jackson’s response during her Senate confirmation hearings after being asked to define a “woman.”

The ad continues with James saying, “Now here in Alabama, we chartered the first transgender school in the South using millions of your tax dollars. The faculty put on a drag show for children. That’s not education, it’s exploitation. It’s got to stop. It’s time to fight back.”

The school responded in a statement on Facebook:

AL.com is reporting that James, during a radio appearance on Thursday, continued to use the charter school to underscore his platform that “our education system is crumbling,” citing the state’s low rankings in math. He said he plans to “deconstruct” the state’s educational system “as it stands today.”

He’s currently trailing incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey by a considerable distance in polling ahead of the May 24 primary

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Alabama

Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signs flurry of anti-LGBTQ+ bills

Including a bill that would criminalize doctors for providing best-practice, gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary youth

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Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey (Screenshot/WVTM 13)

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed a package of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation Friday including House Bill 322 which bans K-12 students from using bathrooms and school facilities consistent with their gender identity and enacts a bill similar to one recently enacted in Florida with “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” provisions for classroom instruction in grades K-5.

Ivey also signed SB 184 – a bill that would criminalize doctors for providing best-practice, gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary youth.

In response, major LGBTQ+ and civil rights organizations – including The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – announced they would challenge the bill.

“A state cannot criminalize parents and doctors for following medical guidelines and providing needed medical treatments,” said Asaf Orr, senior staff attorney and Transgender Youth Project director at the NCLR. “This is a blatantly unconstitutional bill that will cause enormous stress and harm to Alabama families and cost Alabama taxpayers millions of dollars to defend.”

“At the eleventh hour, the governor of Alabama signed into law a slate of arguably the most extreme anti-trans bills we have ever seen. These policies attempt to make providing gender-affirming care a felony, and cut off access to nearly every support system transgender and nonbinary youth have – support systems we know are critical for reducing their suicide risk and for advancing their positive mental health,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. “But they will not succeed. To trans and nonbinary youth in Alabama and across the country watching on this dark day: This is not over. We will fight as far as it takes, until the day every young person knows they are loved, supported, and worthy just as they are. We’re here with you today, we’re here for you every day, and we’re not going anywhere.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Cooley LLP announced today plans to file a legal challenge to proposed legislation in Alabama that would criminalize medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care to transgender adolescents with up to 10 years in prison.

The bills have been opposed by doctors, medical associations, and the families of transgender youth who consider gender-affirming care to be medically necessary and lifesaving. Similar efforts by lawmakers in Arkansas and Texas to restrict access to gender-affirming care have been blocked by courts.

“If Alabama lawmakers insist on passing this cruel, dangerous, and unconstitutional legislation into law, the state will immediately have a lawsuit to deal with,” said Carl S. Charles, senior attorney for Lambda Legal. “The Alabama Legislature and Governor Kay Ivey need to consider the time and resources they will invest, not to mention the stain of discrimination that often means lost opportunity and investment, and ask themselves if targeting the health care of children is truly worth it because we are prepared to make that investment in order to protect transgender youth, their families, and their doctors in Alabama.”

New polling data from The Trevor Project and Morning Consult find:

  • A majority of U.S. adults oppose blocking students from accessing LGBTQ resources and educational content on the internet at school (57%), banning books on LGBTQ topics from school libraries (56%), and banning classroom discussions about LGBTQ topics — including sexual orientation and gender identity — in school (52%). 
  • Further, a majority of adults agree that transgender minors should have access to gender-affirming hormone therapy (55%) and puberty blockers (52%) if it’s recommended by their doctor and supported by their parents. And only 1 in 3 adults say lawmakers should have the ability to outlaw gender-affirming medical care for minors even if such a ban is against the recommendation of doctors and major medical associations.

Another poll released earlier this year found that found that 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth —and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

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Alabama

Alabama Legislature passes gender-affirming care ban

“If passed and signed into law, Alabama will have the most deadly, sweeping, and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country”

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Alabama State Capitol (Photo Credit: State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY, Al. – A bill that would criminalize gender-affirming care for minors cleared the Alabama Legislature Thursday. As the legislation heads to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, some of the largest LGBTQ+ rights and social justice organizations are promising to challenge the measure should it be signed into law. 

S.B. 184, which would be the first bill in the U.S. to make providing gender-affirming care to those under 19 a felony, passed the House along party lines.

The measure would ban puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries for minors in Alabama. The legislation would punish doctors and parents who violate the law with up to 10 years in prison. Supporters of the legislation argue the bill is necessary to protect children in the state.

In response, major LGBTQ+ and civil rights organizations – including The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – announced they would challenge the bill in court if Ivey signs it. 

“A state cannot criminalize parents and doctors for following medical guidelines and providing needed medical treatments,” said Asaf Orr, senior staff attorney and Transgender Youth Project director at the NCLR. “This is a blatantly unconstitutional bill that will cause enormous stress and harm to Alabama families and cost Alabama taxpayers millions of dollars to defend.”

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, the Alabama state director for the HRC, added that lawmakers “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,” urging Ivey to veto legislation. 

A federal judge temporarily blocked a similar ban on gender-affirming care in Arkansas last year.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Senate passed an anti-Trans bathroom bill, which would keep Trans youth from using gendered facilities that match their gender identity in schools. A last-minute amendment would also keep educators from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms, similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last week. It will go back to the House for approval. 

So far this year, state lawmakers have proposed over 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills – many of which target Trans youth – according to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan campaign to win LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections nationwide, legislative tracker.

Texas has been at the forefront of banning gender-affirming care after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive that required the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate gender-affirming care as “child abuse,” while also mandating licensed professionals and general citizens report the procedures or face “criminal penalties.” It followed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s formal opinion concluding that performing certain “sex-change” procedures on children is “child abuse” under Texas law. 

Two Texas courts have issued temporary injunctions, barring the DFPS from investigating parents and families of Trans youth.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Cooley LLP announced today plans to file a legal challenge to the legislation in Alabama that would criminalize medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care to transgender adolescents with up to 10 years in prison.

“Our representatives have been hearing from medical experts, parents, transgender youth, and other advocates for the past three years in an attempt to stop this harmful bill from passing. But despite this strong opposition, the Legislature seems determined to move ahead with this shameful effort to prevent parents and kids from deciding the best course of treatment for themselves,” said Kaitlin Welborn, staff attorney for the ACLU of Alabama. “If the state moves forward in passing this unconstitutional bill, we’ll see them in court.”

A federal court has blocked Arkansas from enforcing a similar law that was passed last year. A state court in Texas has also blocked the state from investigating parents of transgender adolescents receiving gender-affirming care for child abuse.

“If passed and signed into law, Alabama will have the most deadly, sweeping, and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “The way to reduce harm to trans youth is to provide them with gender-affirming health care where it is medically indicated. This bill takes that lifesaving treatment option off the table and makes it a felony. Moving forward with this bill will be deadly for trans youth, push doctors out of a state that has a shortage of medical providers, hurt Alabama’s economy, and subject the state to costly litigation.”

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Alabama

Alabama House passes ‘bathroom bill’ for schools

“Anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials are using this divisive political strategy to harm kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence”

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Alabama State Capitol Building (Photo credit: State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY, Al. – Lawmakers in Alabama’s House of Representatives Tuesday passed a bill that would ban Trans students from using bathrooms and other gendered facilities that align with their gender identity. 

H.B. 322, also referred to as a “bathroom bill,” would require public K-12 schools in the state to designate all gendered facilities, including bathrooms and locker rooms, based on “biological sex.” 

The legislation passed the House by a vote of 74-24 on party lines after a heated floor debate that lasted two hours. Republicans argued the bill would address a public school problem, while Democrats called it an attack on Trans youth. 

The bill now heads to the GOP-majority state Senate. If passed and signed by the governor, the legislation will likely face legal challenges as similar bills and policies in the U.S. have faced lawsuits. 

“Right now, you’ve got males who are dressing up as females, who are identifying themselves as females, and wanting to use the female bathrooms,” said state Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-9), the prime sponsor of the bill, adding that the legislation’s main goal is to protect the privacy of girls in Alabama schools.

But opponents to the bill said it was “demonizing an already vulnerable population.”

“It’s all under the guise of protecting children just to win cheap political points. That’s all it is,” said state Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-54). 

Rafferty also noted that “without targeting vulnerable youth that are already having issues with suicide, mental illness, bullying.”

Stadthagen charged that sexual assaults have happened in school bathrooms, but he could not answer a question asking how many of those attackers were Trans.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ organization, condemned the bill’s passage, saying it would “further discriminate against students who already feel unsafe in school, suffer academically, and have a higher likelihood of dropping out of school.”

“Anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials across Alabama are using this divisive political strategy to harm kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence — kids who already face relentless targeting and increased levels of discrimination in their community, as evidenced by the record incidents of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-binary people in 2021,” said Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director for the HRC, in a statement

She added: “Study after study has shown that these bills make transgender kids afraid of using the bathroom and negatively impact their education and livelihood.”

On Tuesday, the same day the Alabama House passed its “bathroom bill,” a federal appeals court heard arguments in a case involving a Trans student who is suing his former Florida school for its bathroom policy that he argues violated his civil rights and federal nondiscrimination law.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Virginia school board’s appeal to reinstate its Trans bathroom ban, leaving in place a lower court’s decision that found the rule was unconstitutional. 

Only North Carolina and Tennessee have passed “bathroom bills,” both of which immediately faced challenges in court — North Carolina’s was partially repealed, according to the HRC.
In 2017, the Associated Press projected the law could have cost North Carolina $3.76 billion over 10 years from the loss of business opportunities after widespread condemnation of the bill.

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Alabama

Alabama Senate committee oks bill to criminalize Docs treating Trans kids

The language is clearly targeting Trans female youth. The bill will now head to the full Senate for consideration

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Alabama State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY – In a unanimous vote Wednesday the Alabama Senate Health Committee passed a bill that would make treating Trans kids by a healthcare provider in the state a felony.

Senate Bill 184 would make it a Class C felony, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, for anyone to provide gender-affirming medical treatments to children under the age of 19.

The bill would also ban operations that would alter a child’s sex, medical procedures that Alabama’s physicians who treat transgender youth say aren’t currently being done.

The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Shay Shelnutt also inserted language into the legislation requiring that public and others school staff not “withhold from a minor’s parent or legal guardian information related to a minor’s perception that his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with his or her sex.”

The language is clearly targeting Trans female youth. The bill will now head to the full Senate for consideration. 

“A growing body of evidence, healthcare professionals, and every major medical and mental health across the country agree: gender-affirming health care is consistently associated with lower suicide risk among transgender and nonbinary youth,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “It’s clear that this ban is not about those trans and nonbinary youth; it’s about political gain. Lawmakers genuinely concerned about the lives of young Alabamians should be listening to the experts — doctors, families, and trans youth themselves — and put a stop to this bill.”

“If passed and signed into law, this bill would be a gross overreach of government power,” said Dillon Nettles, policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Alabama in a statement after the vote. “The Legislature is not elected to be the definitive medical authority in the state. Let parents and kids decide what is best for themselves, in consultation with their doctor and current medical best practices.”

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