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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal court blocks part of Ala. trans medical treatment law

Trump-appointed judge issued late Friday ruling

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Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse, Birmingham, Alabama (Photo Credit: US Courts/DXR)

In a 32 page ruling released Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke preliminarily enjoined the state from enforcing the law criminalizing medical care for transgender minors in Alabama.

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

Burke, who was nominated to the bench by former President Trump to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, wrote that the section of the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act that makes treatment of trans minor children a felony; “the court finds that there is a substantial likelihood that Section 4(a)(1)–(3) of the act is unconstitutional and, thus, enjoins defendants from enforcing that portion of the act pending trial.”

Burke however ruled that all other provisions of the act remain in effect, specifically: (1) the provision that bans sex-altering surgeries on minors; (2) the provision prohibiting school officials from keeping certain gender-identity information of children secret from their parents; and (3) the provision that prohibits school officials from encouraging or compelling children to keep certain gender-identity information secret from their parents.

The U.S. Justice Department had challenged the state’s Senate Bill 184 — a bill that would criminalize doctors for providing best-practice, gender-affirming care to trans and non-binary youth.

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

SB 184 makes it a felony for any person to “engage in or cause” specified types of medical care for transgender minors. SB 184 thus discriminates against trans youth by denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care.

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

The Justice Department’s complaint alleges that SB 184 violates the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating on the basis of sex and trans status.

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

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

“We are thrilled by this outcome, which will provide enormous relief to transgender children and their families. As the court recognizes, this is well established medical care that has been endorsed by 22 major medical associations. Thanks to this decision, kids in Alabama can now continue to receive this lifesaving care, and their doctors cannot be prosecuted 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 legislation targeting these youth.”

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

The Alabama family plaintiffs are proceeding anonymously to protect their children. They include Robert Roe, and his 13-year-old trans daughter Mary, of Jefferson County; and Jane Doe and her 17-year-old-trans 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 consequences to their children’s health.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty verdict in first federal murder trial based on gender identity

Dime Doe killed in S.C. in 2019

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Dime Doe (Family photo)

A federal jury on Friday handed down a guilty verdict of a man accused of murdering a Black transgender woman in what is classified as the first in the nation federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity.

After a 4-day trial in a federal hate crime case, a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment, which included one hate crime count, one federal firearms count and one obstruction count, all arising out of the murder of Dime Doe.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

According to court documents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter was upset that rumors about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community. On Aug. 4, 2019, the defendant lured Doe to a remote area in Allendale, S.C., and shot her three times in the head. At trial, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritter murdered Doe because of her gender identity. Ritter then burned the clothes he was wearing during the crime, disposed of the murder weapon and repeatedly lied to law enforcement. 

This was the first trial under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for violence against a trans person. The Shepard-Byrd Act is a landmark federal statute passed in 2009 which allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families.”

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering federal sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal hate crimes charges filed against Club Q shooter

Anderson Lee Aldrich pleaded guilty to state charges

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Assistant United States Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced Tuesday federal hate crimes and firearms charges were made against the shooter related to the mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Nov. 19, 2022. 

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 23, is currently housed in a Wyoming prison after pleading guilty to Colorado’s state-level charges in the Club Q shooting, which garnered him a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Aldrich was moved to the Wyoming State Penitentiary last year according to the Colorado Department of Corrections due to concerns about threats to Aldrich’s safety in Colorado’s prison facilities. 

In this latest legal development, the Justice Department entered 50 hate crimes charges and 24 weapons charges — Aldrich used a semiautomatic rifle in the attack. According to the announcement by Clarke, Aldrich filed a notice of disposition and requested that the court schedule a change of plea hearing. 

In consultation with the victims of this incident, the parties jointly filed a motion requesting that the U.S. District Court schedule the change of plea and sentencing hearings on the same date, which the court granted. 

The parties further informed the court that there is a plea agreement in this matter, and it is anticipated that the defendant has agreed to plead guilty to all charges in the information. The time for the entry of the guilty plea has not yet been set.

Brandon Wolf, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, in an emailed statement to the Washington Blade reacted to the news saying:

“The attack on Club Q was a horrific act of hate — the kind of anti-LGBTQ+ hate we must work to combat across the country. It matters to have a Justice Department pushing back against hate instead of fomenting it. It matters to have policies like the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act that protect communities and hold perpetrators accountable. These charges won’t bring back those stolen from their loved ones, but they mark a step toward justice. Our fight to honor the victims and survivors with action continues.”

The court filing charges that Aldrich murdered five people, injured 19 and attempted to murder 28 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the filing, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded assault weapon and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until Aldrich was subdued by patrons of the club. The information also alleges that Aldrich committed this attack because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

During the state court trial in El Paso County Superior Court in Colorado Springs last year, Aldrich identified as nonbinary. El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen told reporters that he believed Aldrich claimed to be nonbinary to avoid being charged with hate crimes under the state’s laws. There was no indication Aldrich identified as nonbinary before the shooting, the district attorney added.

The FBI Denver Field Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case.

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U.S. Federal Courts

DOJ statement of interest supports gender-affirming care in correctional facilities

Case concerns trans woman who says she was denied care

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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke (Civil Rights Division) (Photo credit: DOJ/YouTube)

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights filed a statement of interest on Monday in connection with a lawsuit before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia concerning the administration of gender-affirming care in correctional settings.

According to a press release from the agency, the statement “explains that gender dysphoria falls within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’s definition of ‘disability’ and affirms that correctional institutions cannot deny medically appropriate care for people with gender dysphoria, no matter their particular circumstances, consistent with the Eighth Amendment.”

“We are committed to ensuring constitutional conditions inside our jails and prisons so that those detained inside these facilities, including people with gender dysphoria can live safely and receive needed medical care,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.

“The U.S. Constitution requires that people incarcerated in jails and prisons receive necessary medical care, treatment and services to address serious medical conditions,” she said.

The case before the federal court addresses claims by an incarcerated transgender woman that she was denied necessary medical care — including surgeries recommended by four clinicians and consistent access to hormone therapy.

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