Despite attempts from the Department of Justice (DOJ), a federal court recently ruled that U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine's records are subject to discovery in Alabama's court battle defending 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.
Attorneys for Alabama argued that when the United States involved itself in the case, it made certain federal experts susceptible to discovery, namely, Levine. In September, Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a request for discovery for Levine's records, believing him 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.
Levine is a biological man who identifies as a woman and publicly advocates for so-called "gender-affirming care" for minors.
Despite efforts by the DOJ to shield Levine from discovery, the court ruled on November 17 that his emails and other records are relevant to the state's case defending VCAP.
"I am glad the court granted our motion to require HHS to search Admiral Levine's emails for documents relevant to our defense of Alabama's law," Marshall said in a statement. "Levine has been at the forefront of the Biden Administration's reckless promotion of sex-modification procedures for children. There is no doubt about that, nor about the Admiral's close involvement with radical organizations like WPATH whose 'Standards of Care' mandate the use of sterilizing hormones and surgeries to 'treat' vulnerable children suffering from gender dysphoria. We look forward to reviewing the documents HHS produces as we continue to defend Alabama's children."
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