The Arkansas legislature has overridden Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of a bill denying gender-affirming health care to minors.
The action makes Arkansas the first state to approve such a law. American Civil Liberties Union officials said they were preparing a lawsuit “as we speak.”
Hutchinson had vetoed House Bill 1570 Monday, saying it was overly broad. It bans not only gender-confirmation surgeries — which doctors do not recommend for minors anyway — but also hormone treatments and puberty blockers. “If this was just to ban gender reassignment then I would support it, but those who are taking treatment are not grandfathered in, this is not the right path to put them on,” the Republican governor said, according to TV station KAIT.
“While the population of minors dealing with this is an extreme minority, this could lead to significant harms from suicide to drug use to isolation,” he added.
But Tuesday the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 71-24 to override Hutchinson’s veto, and the Arkansas Senate voted 25-8 to do so, KAIT reports.
Civil rights groups immediately condemned the legislature’s action. “Today Arkansas legislators disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth,” said a statement from Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “As Governor Hutchinson noted in his veto message, denying care to trans youth can lead to harmful and life-threatening consequences. This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over — and we’re in it for the long haul. Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it’s also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court. We are hearing from concerned families all over the state who are afraid about the impact of this bill and others like it. We are committed to doing all we can to support these families and ensure they know how to continue to fight for their rights and get the care and resources they need.
“No matter what these politicians do or say, one thing has not changed: trans youth are loved, they are seen, and we will never stop fighting to defend their dignity, their rights and their lives. To everyone who spoke out against this bill: now is the time to stay loud, not only for trans lives, but for all the fundamental rights that politicians are hellbent on attacking.”
“The Arkansas Legislature has ignored dozens of local doctors and national medical experts, as well as trans youth and their parents,” added Chase Stangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “This bill will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state and send a terrible and heartbreaking message to the transgender young people who are watching in fear. Gender-affirming care is life-saving care and banning that care will have devastating and in some cases deadly consequences. Trans youth in Arkansas: We will continue to fight for you. The ACLU is preparing litigation as we speak. ACLU supporters from around the country spoke out against this bill. We will always have your back and will be relentless in our defense of your rights.”
Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, issued this statement: “To the transgender and nonbinary youth of Arkansas, please know that you deserve love and support and to be affirmed in your gender identity. We will not stop fighting until this cruel and illegal ban is overturned.
“Governor Hutchinson listened to trans youth and their doctors, the state legislature clearly did not. We knew this override could happen, but it is nonetheless devastating because we also know it could have deadly consequences. It is not extreme or sensational to say that this group of young people, who already experience disproportionate rates of violence and suicide attempts, would be put at significantly increased risk of self-harm because of legislation like HB 1570 pushing them farther to the margins of society.”
Similar bills are pending in several other states.