A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked Arkansas’ ban on gender-confirming treatment for transgender youth in a lawsuit over advances in the nation’s first state law.
The move came in response to a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought a preliminary injunction blocking the law passed by lawmakers in Republican states in April. Little Rock U.S. District Court Judge Jay Moody also dismissed the state’s motion to dismiss the ACLU’s lawsuit to overturn the law.
The ban on sex reassignment surgery and gender-confirming treatments, such as hormone therapy and puberty-blocking drugs, was due to go into effect on July 28.
“This move sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is life-saving care, and we won’t let politicians in Arkansas – or for that matter – take it away,” Holly Dickson, director Arkansas ACLU executive said in a statement.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the bill was one of more than 120 introduced in state legislatures across the country this year as part of conservative growing efforts to curtail transgender rights. This includes 36 health care bans in 22 states. The Arkansas state legislature was the first body to pass a ban.
In April, the Arkansas state legislature overturned Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto on the bill. The governor, a Republican, had supported other laws limiting the rights of transgender people, such as allowing doctors to refuse medical treatment because of their religious faith. But he argued that the legislation not only violates conservative principles, but can also harm Republicans politically.
After the judge rendered his ruling on Wednesday, Dylan Brandt, a 15-year-old plaintiff in the case, said gender-affirming medical treatments were “life-saving” and allowed him and other young people to feel comfortable in their own body.
“We understand that it can be confusing to understand,” Mr. Brandt said. told reporters outside of court, “but we ask that you be open to hearing from trans youth. “
Mr. Brandt is one of four transgender youth named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Two doctors also joined the costume.
Supporters of the Arkansas bill, called HB 1570, say it will protect young people from irreversible medical treatment. The authors of the bill claim that “the risks of gender transition procedures far outweigh any benefit at this stage of the clinical study of these procedures.”
Health professionals reject this claim.
“Blocking access to timely care has been shown to increase the risk of youth suicidal ideation and other mental health problems,” said the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2019 .
More generally, in a 2018 statement, the American Psychiatric Association said that there was “significant and long-standing medical and psychiatric literature” demonstrating the “clear benefits of medical and surgical procedures” for transgender people.
The state has 30 days to appeal the judge’s temporary ban, Chase Strangio, an ACLU lawyer, said on Wednesday. But for now, the ACLU is celebrating victory, however temporary.
“It was something that was looming and was so terrifying for so many young people,” said Mr. Strangio, the prosecution’s lead lawyer.
Mr Strangio said since state lawmakers introduced the bill, he has heard more reports from parents of transgender children calling clinics because they fear their children will die by suicide.
GLAAD spokesperson Serena Sonoma said in an email that what made this bill important was that many families of transgender children decided to leave the state “to provide better conditions. of life for vital care of their children “. Strangio added that as the July 28 deadline approached, more and more transgender people were leaving the state.
“Young people were so afraid of what it would mean if they lost their health care so, for now, they can breathe a sigh of relief,” Strangio said.
Wednesday’s ruling came just a day after another federal judge temporarily barred Arkansas from enforcing tough new law that would ban nearly all abortions in the state.
HB 1570 is the second anti-transgender law passed this year that was blocked by an ACLU lawsuit. Earlier this month, a federal court in Tennessee blocked a law requiring businesses and other entities to display a warning sign if transgender people were allowed to use public toilets corresponding to their gender.
In Louisiana in another blow to Republican-led efforts to curtail transgender rights on Wednesday, lawmakers failed to overturn Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a bill banning transgender athletes school sports teams.
Mr. Strangio, in a statement, vowed to fight in Arkansas. “We will fight this law as far and as long as it takes,” he said, “to make sure no young person in Arkansas has to worry about losing their medical care.”