Judge strikes down Arkansas’ ‘first in nation’ ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors, saying it discriminated against patients and violated doctors’ rights
Arkansas introduced the nation’s first ban on the treatment of minors in 2021, which was quickly blocked by a federal judge who made it permanent Tuesday after District Judge Jay Moody said it overturned protecting young people.
A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Arkansas’ first ban of 2021 on gender-confirmation care for children as unconstitutional, as a growing number of Republican-led states adopted similar bans.
It sets the stage for a flurry of future legal challenges as Republican candidates use the issue in their culture war manifesto for the 2024 election.
Arkansas is the first state to ban doctors from providing sex-affirming hormone treatments, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18.
But U.S. District Judge Jay Moody temporarily blocked the law in 2021 and made the moratorium permanent on Tuesday.
In his order, he said the ban violated the rights of doctors and discriminated against transgenders.
A 2021 rally against the law outside the Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock
“Rather than protecting children or protecting medical ethics, evidence has shown that prohibiting medical care improves patients’ mental health and well-being, and by prohibiting it, the state undermines the interests it claims to advance,” he wrote.
The law would prohibit doctors from referring patients elsewhere for such care.
And at least 19 other states have passed laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors since Arkansas took the lead, and nearly all of them have been challenged in court.
Moody’s ruling will be closely watched because it is the first time a federal court has decided on the validity of such a ban.
The state attorney general immediately said he would appeal.
Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said on Twitter, ‘Judge Moody missed what is widely known: There is no scientific evidence that any child will benefit from these procedures, even though the consequences are harmful and often permanent.’
‘We will appeal to the Eighth Circuit.’
Republican lawmakers in Arkansas passed the ban in 2021, overriding a veto by former GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson, who left office in January and is now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, said the law goes too far by cutting off treatment for children currently in such care.
State Attorney General Tim Griffin immediately said on Twitter that he would appeal
The ruling affects only the ban in Arkansas but could have implications for the fate of similar bans, or discourage efforts to enact them in other states.
‘This decision sends a clear message. This does not verify fear-mongering and misinformation about health care; This hurts trans youth and must end,’ said Holly Dixon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas.
‘Science, medicine and law are clear: gender-affirming care is needed to ensure these young Arkansans can thrive and stay healthy.’
The ACLU challenged the law on behalf of four transgender youth and their families and two doctors.
The ruling comes as more states prepare to ban caregiving for transgender youth.
Louisiana’s Democratic governor has said he intends to veto a similar ban, though the Republican legislature likely has the votes he needs to override it. Proposed bans are also pending in the legislatures of North Carolina and Ohio.
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