Defending Trans Youth in Alabama | Crooked Media
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April 14, 2022
What A Day
Defending Trans Youth in Alabama

In This Episode

  • Alabama became the first state to criminalize the act of providing gender-affirming medical care to trans youth, last week. The bill makes it a felony to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to trans kids under the age of 19. Kaitlin Welborn, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, joins us to discuss her organization’s work challenging the law.
  • And in headlines: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, Ed Buck was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and an NFT of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet is being auctioned off by its owner.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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Transcript

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday, April 15th. I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, sending blessings to anyone celebrating Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and Coachella.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yes, they allow us to connect with our ancestors, who also saw frogs falling from the sky when Swedish House Mafia started performing.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But they loved it, though. I don’t know if y’all is going to love it this time.

 

Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, Elon Musk makes a $43 billion bid to buy Twitter.

 

[clip of Elon Musk] You know, I could technically afford it.

 

[voice] I heard that. I heard that.

 

Gideon Resnick: Well, technically. But we’ll break down for you how that could even work later in the episode. Plus, both Florida and Kentucky enact restrictive abortion bans after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But first, we’re going to tell you more about a blow to trans rights that happened last week. Alabama became the first state to criminalize the act of providing gender-affirming medical care to trans youth after Governor Kay Ivey signed SB184 into law. The bill also called the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act—which, you know, is weird—makes it a felony to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to trans kids under the age of 19, a crime that’s punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Not only could doctors be thrown in jail for providing trans kids with care they need, but trans kids themselves, along with their families, could be held criminally liable under this law as well.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that part is the one that seems the wildest. The law is currently set to go into effect on May 8th. But on Monday, two physicians filed a lawsuit to block it. One of the plaintiffs, Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, said that Governor Ivey has quote, “undermined the health and well-being of Alabama children and put doctors like me in the horrifying position of choosing between ignoring the medical needs of our patients or risking being sent to prison.” And that same day to families with trans teenagers also sued the state. They are represented by a number of LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU of Alabama.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: To learn more about the effort to challenge this law and what comes next, we have with us, Kaitlin Welborn. She is a staff attorney at the ACLU of Alabama, one of the advocacy groups representing these families. So, Kaitlin, what was your reaction to the state legislature passing the law to begin with?

 

Kaitlin Welborn: We have been fighting this law for three years. It first was introduced in the Alabama Legislature three sessions ago.

 

Gideon Resnick: Oh, wow.

 

Kaitlin Welborn: And we were told by House leadership that they were not particularly interested in passing this bill, that they had other priorities. So we thought, you know, OK, great, we have plenty of other things to fight in. But then it was put on the calendar the night before the last day of session. You know, we were quite upset about that because we were, you know, sort of holding our breath that we were going to make it through another session unscathed. And that really wasn’t the case.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And is there concern about how this kind of extreme policy might spread to other states? Like we’ve seen other anti-trans bills, right, already passed in other states, but none that have this type of enforcement mechanism towards it. So is there any concern about that thing spreading as well?

 

Kaitlin Welborn: Of course. I mean, we don’t want anybody else getting ideas from the Alabama Legislature, but Alabama has been doing this for a really long time. You know, the 2019 abortion ban, they knew it was unconstitutional. they passed it. All of their abortion regulations have criminal penalties. Other states haven’t finished their legislative sessions yet. I hope that they don’t follow Alabama’s lead, but they seem to really like to outdo each other.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.

 

Gideon Resnick: Right. Can you walk us through a little bit of what the actual argument is that you’re going to be making against the law?

 

Kaitlin Welborn: Sure. So we have a couple of different arguments. I think the main one and the one that I think most people will resonate with is the equal protection argument, which says under the 14th Amendment you can’t discriminate on the basis of sex without a really compelling reason to do so. We know that discrimination on the basis of sex also means in terms of your gender identity. So here, we are clearly discriminating based on children who are, you know, trans-identifying who don’t fit the exact kind of gender stereotype that some people have, and that violates the Constitution. We also have several other arguments based on parental autonomy, for example, that as parents, they have a right to control, you know, the medical decisions for their own family, and taking that away violates an enumerated constitutional right. But primarily, it’s really the equal protection argument. And I think that that it just makes sense, right?

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And I’m curious, we’ve been talking about states that are historically quite conservative in nature. Are there any other kind of challenges that Alabama specifically presents in that regard that some of these other places that we’ve referenced, Arkansas, Texas, places like that, perhaps do not?

 

Kaitlin Welborn: We can’t go through that Alabama state courts. We can only go through a federal court. In Alabama where you have, you know, people the likes of Roy Moore, who used to be on the Alabama Supreme Court, that’s really just not an option for us. But I also think that Alabama is unique in that it’s sort of this ground zero for anti-trans activism and laws and so this is something that the state has really been focused on for several years. It’s not just joining the bandwagon like some other states. It’s not just the Legislature, either. It is the Governor and the, you know, regulatory system within the state of Alabama. We are challenging right now a rule that requires transgender people to undergo surgery, both top and bottom surgery, in order to change the sex designation on their driver’s licenses. You know, it’s one of only three or four states in the country that has a rule like that. It’s barbaric and invasive and expensive. So it’s just really ingrained in Alabama government at this point, that discrimination, you know, for trans people, it’s just what we do.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So the suit has been filed now, and I feel like most times we hear about the moment that the suit gets filed and then we hear about the result, but we don’t really know what happens in that between time. So can you walk us through what the process looks like after the filing of the suit?

 

Kaitlin Welborn: Chaos, is really what I would say. I think every litigator knows that filing days are the absolute worst days of your career, and it never gets any easier. So we filed for both a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction and that asks the court to enjoin the law on a preliminary basis without having to have a full trial. You just have to show that we are likely to win on the merits, that people will have harm that can’t be fixed in the meantime—it’s not like money that you can just give back. They will have what’s called irreparable harm—and that the balance of the equities favors an injunction. So the government isn’t going to be prejudiced too much and it’s in the public interest to put this law on hold until we can have a full trial on it because this law goes into effect on May 8 so, you know, we need to do it now.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And that is Kaitlin Welborn, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Alabama. We’ll link to the organization and others in our show notes who are working hard to protect the rights of trans people in Alabama. But that’s the latest for now.

 

Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.

 

[sung] Headlines.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: A white police officer shot and killed a 26-year old Black man named Patrick Lyoya  during a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The shooting occurred on April 4th, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that the city’s police department released video footage of the altercation. Authorities said an officer pulled over a car with a faulty license plate that didn’t match the description of the vehicle. Lyoya got out of the driver’s seat and within a few minutes of physical struggle began between them. Harrowing video shows Lyoya face down with the officer on top of him and trying to keep him down. And then the officer reached for their gun and shot Lyoya in the back of the head—which is super tragic. Michigan State Police are still investigating the incident, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer promised transparency. Meanwhile, demonstrators protesting the killing, along with Lyoya’s family have called for the name of the officer to be released and for the officer to be held accountable. The Lyoya family, who fled Congo to seek refuge in the US, has called Patrick’s death an execution.

 

Gideon Resnick: Horrifying. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill yesterday that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, shortening it down from the previous rule that banned them after 24 weeks. This new law goes into effect on July 1st, and it does not make exceptions for cases of incest, rape, or human trafficking, which is similar to the bill that Oklahoma’s governor signed earlier this week. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Kentucky enacted the harshest abortion restrictions in the U.S.—the state’s new law not only bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but it also restricts minors’ access to the procedure and cracks down on medication abortions. Kentucky’s Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, had tried to veto this bill last week, arguing that it was unconstitutional, but Wednesday night, the state’s Republican-led Legislature overrode his veto. The new law went into effect immediately and forced the two remaining abortion clinics in the state to close.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Ed Buck, a long-time political activist and donor in the L.A. area, was sentenced to 30 years in prison yesterday. Buck, who is white, was convicted in federal court last year for a range of felonies connected to the overdose death of two Black men in his home. Before that trial, those victims’ families and others said Buck had long preyed on men in the Black community and sexually abused them. However, they complained that he escaped prosecution for years because of his wealth, race, and political ties to local Democratic leaders. It wasn’t until 2019 that federal and California prosecutors stepped in to file charges against Buck. During the sentencing, Judge Christina Snyder said that despite his philanthropy Buck committed quote, “horrific crimes” that were quote, “more than just an accident.”

 

Gideon Resnick: It turns out the asset class that only makes sense to people who live inside the computer, non-fungible tokens, might not always hold their value. An NFT of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, which was bought for $2.9 million last year, is currently being auctioned off by its owner and the top bid as of yesterday, it was just under $7,000.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes.

 

Gideon Resnick: The NFT is currently owned by Iranian crypto entrepreneur Sina Estavi. A little over a week ago, he announced he’d be selling it, tweeting that he assumes the proceeds would exceed $50 million. For the nonscientists out there, $7,000is actually quite a bit less than $50 million but Estavi probably won’t take the current highest offer, seeing as he has told Reuters quote, “I will not sell this NFT to anyone because I do not think everyone deserves this NFT.”—Sure. The tweet, which Estavi has described as quote, “The Mona Lisa of the digital world” says the following: just setting up my Twitter. It’s beautiful. If you’re wondering what might be going on in one’s life that would lead them to part with such a priceless item, Estavi was just released from prison in Iran, where he was arrested for quote, “disrupting the economic system” and his crypto businesses crashed while he was serving time. NFT sales have been on a downward trend this overall year. On the largest NFT marketplace, there were five billion dollars in sales in January, then two and a half billion dollars in sales in March. And by my math, that is less.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I still don’t understand this whole NFT thing, but I would hate to be a Estavi, having paid so much money, and no one relatively seems to be interested in recouping you your funds.

 

Gideon Resnick: Well, but then you would also have the Mona Lisa of the digital world to [unclear]. That’s the upside here.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Is it? Is it the upside?

 

Gideon Resnick: I don’t know. I can’t say for sure. It’s not clicked for me, so I would say, No, agree.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to talk even more Twitter news: the journey for Elon Musk from being a super user to the majority shareholder to staging a hostile takeover of the whole company.

 

[ad break]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: As we promised, we have one more story to get into and Gideon, it’s one that you’ve been following about Elon Musk and one of the places that Musk spends a lot of his time: Twitter. So we mentioned earlier in the week that there was already a set of foolishness involving Musk and the platform where he went from being the largest individual shareholder to getting offered a seat on the board, to eventually turning that down. And then yesterday, he said, he’s just going to buy it? Can you explain that?

 

Gideon Resnick: Sure, I’ll give it a try. Here is the gist as we’re speaking now: yesterday, Musk made a $43 billion bid for Twitter, taking the company private with an offer for $54.20 dollars a share. That is more than what shares are worth as we record, by the way. But people were pointing out that Musk has historically found the numbers 420 in sequence to be hilarious. And when he has the opportunity to do it, he will do it. In the letter that he sent to Twitter about all of this, Musk said that if his offer is not accepted, he would quote, “need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.” He also said—this was a good line—quote, “Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.”

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It’s giving mad scientist vibes.

 

Gideon Resnick: Sure.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I don’t know how I feel about it. But it’s interesting to see that he wasn’t just kidding, like rich people normally kid about buying things with their money. So tell me why exactly does he want to own this company? I would imagine he’s got plenty of other stuff to do already.

 

Gideon Resnick: He certainly has quite enough time to post. That’s for sure. We know that much. So on the question of why we can only go off of what he says, which is sometimes a tricky calculation with Musk for tons and tons of reasons, so on the question of why is he doing this, he had this to say at a TED conference yesterday:

 

[clip of Elon Musk] My strong, intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.

 

[voice] But you’ve described yourself—

 

[clip of Elon Musk] I don’t care about the economics at all.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Uh huh.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Musk also expressed some doubt that he would, in fact, be able to actually acquire Twitter and said, though, that he did have a Plan B if the board did reject this offer.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So he’s saying that he’s buying Twitter for the people, right?

 

Gideon Resnick: Sure.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Which is interesting. Didn’t expect that one to come.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yup. Interesting indeed.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Is Twitter even up for sale? Like, can he actually just write a check for it? What are the odds that this actually happens?

 

Gideon Resnick: Everything is for sale in America, Tre’vell. That is what we have been born and bred for—I’m kidding. But seriously, there are a few things to unpack here to answer that question. One is that point that Musk himself raised, right, that he might not be successful in even trying to do this. To that end, Twitter’s board appears pretty keen to make sure that it does not happen, or at least that’s how they felt yesterday. According to The Wall Street Journal, Twitter’s board apparently was considering what is called a ‘poison pill’ that would limit one shareholder, Musk, in this case from making the kind of acquisition that he is talking about—very Succession-y in that particular part of the story. And then one of Twitter’s shareholders, Prince Al Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, tweeted that the company should reject the offer, which then prompted a response on Twitter from Musk about trying to get the platform that he was responding on Twitter to. It’s OK if your head is spinning, mine is was well. The second part of this that’s worth thinking about is that it’s unclear if Musk has the liquid assets to actually purchase Twitter, despite being the richest person in the world. Much of his money is in Tesla stock at the moment. So from here there is quite a bit that we don’t know in terms of what’s going to happen.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: OK. But this seems like it could still have big implications. What are some of those?

 

Gideon Resnick: It certainly could. Here’s what our friend Mike Isaac, the New York Times tech reporter, told us about that:

 

Mike Isaac: The guy wants to reshape the service. He has said he wants it to be a kind of free speech, maximalist version of Twitter—

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, girl!

 

Mike Isaac: —which for you might mean a whole lot more things that you may not want to see or that may offend you or may be really more objectionable than you’re used to. So he said recently that just because someone says something that I don’t like, essentially, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to say it. And a lot of folks on the right agree with him. But we’ll see if his bid is successful because he has got a lot of opposition, both inside and outside of the company, especially from people who are worried that the guy might go too far.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: No thank you. No thank you.

 

Gideon Resnick: For sure. So I am quite positive there is going to be more on this soon, if not in seconds. But that is all we have for now. We’re going to keep you updated as it unfolds. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, buy our overpriced NFTs, and tell your friends to listen.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just Jack Dorsey’s first tweet without spending a literal dime like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.

 

Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

[together] And happy holidays, including Coachella!

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Shout out to all of y’all who will be in the desert on unnamed substances just living your best life.

 

Gideon Resnick: Exactly. The free substances of air and water, which make sure you have plenty of.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.

 

Gideon Resnick: I sound like everybody’s parents right now, but please, drink water while you’re there.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Stay hydrated, please.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.