Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently blocked U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine from being subject to legal discovery as Alabama attorneys defend a state ban on transgender surgeries and hormones for minors.
In April 2022, Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act (VCAP) into law, which prohibits doctors in Alabama from performing transgender operations or prescribing cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers to individuals under 19.
VCAP went into effect on May 8, 2022, but was blocked by U.S. District Judge Liles Burke a few days later. The injunction by Burke came after multiple parties added themselves as plaintiffs in the case, including five transgender minors by way of their parents, the United States of America and Kaitlin Toyama, an attorney-advisor with the civil rights division of the DOJ.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the injunction in August, but the state is still preparing to defend the law in federal court in 2024.
When the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from the state fighting the injunction in November 2022, attorneys for the DOJ appeared to argue in support of the injunction. Federal judges grilled the DOJ attorneys, curious about their involvement and alleged interest as an intervener in the case.
When the U.S. involved itself in the case, it made certain federal experts susceptible to discovery.
Levine is a biological man who identifies as a woman and publicly advocates for so-called "gender-affirming care" for minors.
According to Fox News, Alabama Attorney Steve Marshall filed for discovery for Levine's records, believing Levine to be one of the primary voices in the federal government and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), advocating for sex change interventions for minors.
"It is not hyperbole to say that Admiral Levine is the leading public-facing official in the United States government when it comes to transitioning treatments for minors," Marshall said in a court filing.
He continued, "So if one were putting together a list of potential custodians at HHS concerning transitioning treatment for minors, Levine would be at the top. Levine obviously has communications and documents relevant to this litigation. Yet when Defendants requested that Levine be made a custodian, the United States refused."
The DOJ then attempted to block the discovery request, stating that Levine "is not herself [sic] conducting studies related to gender-affirming care nor is she [sic] employed at HHS as a researcher."
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