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Judge Blocks Arkansas Ban on Gender-Affirming Health Care for Minors

Trans protest
Trans rights protest pictured via Shutterstock

The law, banning hormone treatment and puberty blockers as well as gender-affirming surgeries, was set to go into effect July 28.

A federal judge in Arkansas has issued an injunction preventing the state's ban on gender-affirming health care for minors from going into effect.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas granted the injunction Wednesday in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four transgender youth and their families as well as two doctors. The decision doesn't strike down the law but blocks it while the suit proceeds. It was set to go into effect July 28.

Arkansas lawmakers in April overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of the legislation, making it the first state to pass such a law. It would ban puberty blockers and hormone treatment for anyone under 18, in addition to gender-affirming surgery, which is not generally performed on minors anyway. It would also prohibit referrals for such care and would allow private insurers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for people of any age.

Although Hutchinson is a Republican who has supported several other anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ measures, he said the health care ban was overly broad and would "lead to significant harms." It's part of a rash of homophobic and transphobic legislation introduced in states around the country this year.

The ACLU welcomed the court's decision. "This ruling 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 anywhere else -- take it away," Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, said in a press release. "Today's victory is a testament to the trans youth of Arkansas and their allies, who never gave up the fight to protect access to gender-affirming care and who will continue to defend the right of all trans people to be their authentic selves, free from discrimination. We won't rest until this cruel and unconstitutional law is struck down for good."

"We warned lawmakers that if they passed laws attacking trans people that they would see us in court," added Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU's LGBTQ & HIV Project. "This victory belongs to Dylan, Brooke, Sabrina, and Paxton, as well as other trans youth in Arkansas who spoke up about the harms created by this law. Our work in Arkansas and around the country is far from over -- including with this law."

The ACLU has filed several other suits challenging anti-trans laws. In response to one of them, a judge in Tennessee recently issued an injunction against a law requiring businesses to post warning signs if they allow trans people to use the restrooms and changing rooms comporting with their gender identity.

The Trevor Project issued a release praising the decision as well. "This is a huge victory for transgender and nonbinary youth in Arkansas," said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs. "Thank you to our friends at the ACLU and to all the brave families and doctors involved in this case. Gender-affirming medical care is associated with positive mental health outcomes and reduced suicide risk. All trans youth deserve access to this best-practice care regardless of where they live."

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