Alabama House passes bill putting definitions of sex into law

Rep. Susan Dubose, R-Hoover, greets a person on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives prior to the start of the House session on April 13, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

 A bill that would define “sex-based” terms based on the person’s reproductive system passed the Alabama House Thursday on a 77-24 vote.

HB 111, sponsored by Rep. Susan DuBose, R-Hoover, would provide that a male is a person with “a reproductive system that at some point produces sperm” while a female is a person with “a reproductive system that at some point produces ova.”

“[The bill] codifies the time-honored definitions of male, female, man, women, boy, girl, mother, father and sex,” DuBose said. “This is a definitions bill for our courts to have guidance when interpreting laws that already exist in Alabama.”

It would define a man as “an adult human of the male sex” and a woman as “an adult human of the female sex.”

The proposal also allows state and local agencies to create separate spaces assigned to each gender and mandates them to collect information that identifies people based on their gender at birth.

SB 92, a similar bill sponsored by Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, was approved in a Senate committee in February.

A public hearing on the legislation in February drew more than 100 people. DuBose introduced a bill defining gender in the 2023 legislative session, but the bill did not reach the House floor. DuBose also sponsored a law last year banning transgender youth from playing college sports.

A substitute on the floor provided that sex is not gender identity and that it would not prohibit “unknown” gender on a birth certificate.

Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, proposed an amendment providing the terms apply to state law and that it will follow the Supremacy Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The amendment passed on a 95-0 vote.

Rafferty said the amendment is meant to “make sure we have guardrails that protect the well-established rights and protections against gender discrimination and sex-based discrimination.”

Rep. Marilyn Lands, D-Huntsville, said that she still has concerns about the bill and said the bill does “nothing to protect women’s rights.”

“I believe it’s attempting to silence transgender and non-binary Alabamians. I’ve heard from many constituents who oppose this bill and won’t be silenced,” she said.

Lands added that as a licensed counselor, she knows the toll the legislation will have on the LGBTQ+ community and cited a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health that found transgender and non-binary youth who experienced bathroom discrimination were more likely to be at risk of attempting suicide. 

 “We must be mindful that when we protect the rights of marginalized people, we protect the rights of all. This bill is an unacceptable continuation of these dangerous policies, and I hope my colleagues will join me in choosing love over fear and standing up for the safety of transgender and non-binary Alabamians by voting no on this bill,” Lands said.

House Majority Leader Scott Stadhagen, R-Hartselle, attempted to amend the legislation to require that any overnight program for minors that share multiple occupancy bathrooms, changing facilities or sleeping quarters ban people from the opposite gender from sharing spaces.

After Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, questioned the reason for the amendment, Stadhagen said that he wasn’t “going to name certain entities” but it was to prevent “camps throughout the state” from being gender inclusive.

She also said that it potentially conflicts with the amendment passed by Rafferty, which the chamber passed overwhelmingly. 

Stadhagen withdrew his amendment after Givan’s questions, and said “it’s been brought to my attention that this amendment might cause problems with universities in the state.”

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