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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday blocked part of an Alabama law that makes it a felony to prescribe gender-affirming puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors.

U.S. District Judge Liles Burke issued a preliminary injunction to stop the state from enforcing the medication ban, which took effect May 8, while a court challenge goes forward.

The judge left in place other parts of the law that banned gender-affirming surgeries for transgender minors and requires counselors, teachers and other school officials to tell parents if a minor discloses that they think they are transgender.

The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act made it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to prescribe or administer gender-affirming medication to transgender minors to help affirm their new gender identity.

Burke ruled that Alabama had produced no credible evidence to show that transitioning medications are “experimental” while, “the uncontradicted record evidence is that at least twenty-two major medical associations in the United States endorse transitioning medications as well-established, evidence-based treatments for gender dysphoria in minors.”

“Enjoining the Act upholds and reaffirms the ‘enduring American tradition’ that parents—not the states or federal courts—play the primary role in nurturing and caring for their children,” Burke wrote in the opinion.

The legislation was part of a wave of bills in Republican-controlled states regarding transgender minors, but it is the first to levy criminal penalties against the doctors who provide the medications. In Arkansas, a judge blocked a similar law before it took effect.

The U.S. Department of Justice and four families with transgender children challenged the Alabama law as discriminatory, an unconstitutional violation of equal protection and free speech rights and an intrusion into family medical decisions.

The state attorney general’s office insists the law is constitutional and says it’s aimed at protecting children. “The science and common sense are on Alabama’s side. We will win this fight to protect our children,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said recently.

Alabama lawmakers, who approved the bill this spring, said decisions on the medications should wait until adulthood.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Endocrine Society both endorse the treatments that clinics here and in other states are providing for transgender youth. More than 20 medical and mental health organizations urged Burke to block the law. “Gender-affirming medical care is the well-recognized, accepted standard of care for adolescents at risk of or suffering from gender dysphoria,” an attorney wrote in the motion.

Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician who founded a Birmingham medical team that treats children with gender dysphoria, testified last week that her clinic is one of about 55 across the country.

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Georgia students sue over blocked protest against rebel flag

ATLANTA (AP) — A group of Black students who were suspended for trying to protest Confederate flag displays at their school in Georgia has filed a federal lawsuit accusing their school district and its board members of allowing “overt bigotry and animosity by some white students and teachers against African American students.”

The students, joined by their mothers as plaintiffs, already made news when their protest at Coosa High School was stifled last fall.

Now, in their lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Floyd County school district and its board members, they allege an extensive pattern of racism, including white students reenacting the murder of George Floyd and posting it on social media, and a student who carried what appeared to be a whip and told a Black student “we used to whip you.”

They also allege unfair punishment: Students are banned from wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, but Confederate flag apparel is acceptable under the school’s dress code, the lawsuit says.

The suit faults administrators for “deliberate indifference to acts of racial animosity toward black students perpetrated by white students and teachers; as well as the school’s viewpoint discrimination in its dress code and the inconsistent administration of disciplinary policies to the detriment of Black students.”

Joining the students as plaintiffs are their mothers, Lekisha Turner and Jessica Murray. Murray claims she was pulled over by a police officer after picking up the suspended children, and detained until school officials presented her with a letter threatening criminal trespassing charges if she was found again on school grounds.

Superintendent Glenn White on Tuesday said the district disputes the allegations but had been advised by lawyers to not get into specifics at this time. “The Floyd County school system looks forward to presenting the facts on this situation in court,” White told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Coosa High near Rome is in the heart of northwest Georgia’s conservative 14th Congressional District, which sent Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to Congress. About 10% of the school’s more than 800 students in grades 8-12 are Black, state enrollment figures show. About 58% are white, while 26% are Hispanic and the the remainder are multiracial or some other race.

The lawsuit accuses school officials of creating “an atmosphere where certain viewpoints including white nationalism and white supremacy are permitted but speech of an ideologically different viewpoint is expressly prohibited.”

When a group of students sought to protest the ability of their classmates to wear the Confederate flag on campus, the principal threatened student Deserae Turner that she could be jailed for “instigating a riot,” the lawsuit says. The principal also announced over the intercom that any student protesting or even possessing a flyer announcing the protest would be disciplined.

The lawsuit alleges that four Black plaintiffs who organized the protest were suspended for five days, while nonblack student organizers were not disciplined. Lawyers also allege the preemptive shutdown of the protest and demands that students not post on social media violated students’ First Amendment rights. A fifth student who was not suspended has also sued.

The suit says dress code rules allowing Confederate flag apparel but not Black Lives Matter apparel are illegal viewpoint discrimination by a government agency, which also violates the First Amendment. It says the district also has violated the students’ and parents’ right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment, as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Among other remedies, the plaintiffs demand that the school district be blocked from further punishing the students because of their speech, remove prior punishments from school records and pay money damages.

Among the lawyers bringing the suit is Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general in Massachusetts.

___

Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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