Court: Arkansas cannot ban treatment of transgender children

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Arkansas could not enforce its ban on transgender children receiving gender-affirming medical care.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision temporarily barring the state from enforcing the 2021 law. A trial is scheduled for October before the same judge on whether to block definitely the law.

Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban, which prohibits doctors from providing or referring sex-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under the age of 18. to other providers for processing. There are no doctors who perform gender-affirming surgery on minors in the state.

“Because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Law 626 discriminates on the basis of sex,” the court ruling said Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union disputed the law on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender-confirmation treatment.

“The Eighth Circuit has been very clear that the state’s ban on care does not advance any significant government interest and that the state’s defense of the law lacks legal support or evidence,” Chase Strangio , Deputy Director of Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV. project, said in a statement. “The state does not have to categorically designate this prohibition concern.”

Arkansas argued that the restriction falls within the state’s power to regulate medical practices.

Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will ask the entire 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the ruling, spokeswoman Amanda Priest said, adding that Rutledge was “extremely disappointed with today’s dangerously flawed ruling. by the panel of three judges”.

The 8th Circuit covers Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and the Dakotas. The decision on the Arkansas law comes after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. ruled last week that gender dysphoria is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Experts and advocates said the move could help block conservative political efforts to restrict access to gender-affirming care.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed Arkansas’ ban last year and GOP lawmakers overstepped him. Pediatricians, social workers and parents of young transgender people said the measure would hurt a community already at risk of depression and suicide. Hutchinson said he would sign such legislation if it focused only on gender confirmation surgery.

On Thursday, he called Arkansas’ ban “the most extreme law in the country” and urged lawmakers to roll it back next year “with a narrower goal of protecting our children.”

“No other state has passed such a law that interferes with a parent making health care decisions for minor children based on a physician’s recommendations when the recommendations are based on generally accepted medical advice” , Hutchinson, who is stepping down in January, said in a statement. .

Several medical groups, including the American Medical Association, oppose the ban and have said the care is safe if properly administered. The Justice Department also opposed the ban, calling it unconstitutional.

An ACLU attorney told the appeals committee in June that reinstating the restriction would create uncertainty for families.

A federal judge in May blocked a similar law in Alabama. A Tennessee ban enacted last year on transgender treatments for young people, which is limited to providing gender-confirming hormone treatment to prepubescent minors, remains in force.

In Texaschild protection officials were prevented from investigating three families of transgender youth about the gender confirmation care the minors received. A state judge is considering preventing further investigations.

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