LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas A federal judge overturned Arkansas’ first national ban on child care by affirming gender Tuesday as unconstitutional, the first ruling to overturn that ban as a growing number of Republican-led states adopt similar restrictions.
US District Judge Jay Moody issued a permanent injunction against the Arkansas law, which would have prohibited doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatments, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18.
Arkansas law, which Moody’s temporarily blocked in 2021, would also have prohibited doctors from referring patients elsewhere for such care. At least 19 other states have enacted laws restricting or prohibiting child care under Arkansas law, and nearly all have been challenged in court.
In his order, Moody’s ruled that the ban violated due process and equal protection rights for transgender youth and families. He said the law also violated the First Amendment rights of medical providers.
Rather than protect children or safeguard medical ethics, the evidence has shown that prohibited medical treatments improve patients’ mental health and well-being, and that by prohibiting them, the state has undermined the interests it claims to promote, Moody’s wrote in the his sentence.
Moody’s ruling echoed remarks judges have made in other decisions temporarily blocking similar bans in Alabama and Indiana.
Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement that he plans to appeal Moody’s ruling to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which last year upheld the judge’s interim order against the law. Griffin said he was disappointed by the ruling, calling it a health trial, an argument the judges said has been refuted by decades of clinical experience and scientific research.
Republican lawmakers in Arkansas enacted the ban in 2021, overriding former GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto. Hutchinson, who left office in January and is now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, said the law has gone too far by cutting off care for children currently receiving that care.
The ruling only affects the Arkansas ban, but it may have implications for the fate of similar bans, or discourage attempts to enact them, in other states.
This decision sends a clear message. The scaremongering and misinformation about this health care does not stand up to scrutiny; it hurts trans youth and it needs to stop, said Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. Science, medicine, and the law are clear: Gender-affirming care is needed to ensure these young Arkansans can thrive and be healthy.
The ACLU challenged the law on behalf of four transgender youth and their families and two doctors.
The ruling comes as even more states are poised to ban care for transgender youth. Louisiana’s Democratic governor said he plans to veto a similar ban, although the Republican lawmaker likely has the votes to override it. The proposed bans are also pending in the North Carolina and Ohio legislatures.
Three states have banned or limited assistance through administrative regulations or orders.
The Florida law goes beyond banning treatments for young people, also banning the use of state money for gender-affirming care and placing new restrictions on adults seeking treatment. A federal judge has prevented Florida from imposing its ban on three children who challenged the law.
Children’s hospitals across the country have faced harassment and threats of violence for providing such care.
The state argued that the ban falls within its authority to regulate the medical profession. People against such treatments for children argue that they are too young to make such decisions about their future. Major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the bans, and experts say the treatments are safe when administered correctly.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Hutchinson’s successor, signed legislation in March that attempts to effectively reinstate Arkansas’s ban by making it easier to sue child care providers who assert gender. That law won’t go into effect until the end of this summer.
Sanders called out assistance activists on Tuesday pushing a political agenda at the expense of our children.
Only in far-left America’s waking vision is it not appropriate to protect children, Sanders tweeted.
A trial about two weeks before Moody’s included testimony from one of the transgender youths challenging the state’s ban. Dylan Brandt, 17, testified in October that the hormone therapy he received has transformed his life and that the ban would force him out of state.
I am so grateful that the judge heard my experience of how this healthcare changed my life for the better and saw the dangerous impact this law could have on my life and the lives of countless other transgender people, Brandt said in a statement issued by the ACLU.
Sabrina Jennen, another of the transgender teens who sued for the ban, said she felt a wave of relief at the ruling.
I can say with 100% certainty that if I hadn’t had these treatments, I wouldn’t be here today or at least in as stable a state of mind as happy and thriving as I am, Jennen, 17, told The Associated Press. Having this cure, has really lifted me from the deepest and darkest place.
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