A Service of UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arkansas AG Griffin asks full appeals court to reverse ruling on transgender care for minors

Attorneys and plaintiffs left the federal courthouse last year during the arguments phase of the transgender healthcare trial.
Josie Lenora
Attorneys and plaintiffs leave the federal courthouse in Little Rock last year during the arguments phase of the transgender healthcare trial.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Thursday asked the full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to hear his appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the state’s ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.

Act 626 of 2021, known as the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, prohibited physicians from providing “gender transition” treatments like hormones, puberty blockers and surgeries to those under age 18. Four Arkansas families and two physicians challenged the law in federal court.

U.S. District Judge James Moody temporarily enjoined enforcement of the law in July 2021 and oversaw the lawsuit’s eight-day trial last year. He permanently blocked the law in June, and Griffin appealed the decision in July.

Appeals are usually sent to a three-judge panel at the 8th Circuit. In August 2022, such a panel upheld Moody’s preliminary injunction on the SAFE Act. The full 11-member court refused to rehear the ruling in November.

The SAFE Act was the first law of its kind in the United States, though 20 states now have such laws.

Griffin said in a Thursday press release that he based his request on two decisions by three-judge panels in other judicial circuits that allowed bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth to go into effect.

A 6th U.S. Circuit panel lifted a temporary block on a Tennessee law similar to the SAFE Act in July. A federal judge in Kentucky used the Tennessee ruling as a partial basis for his decision to lift a block on a similar Kentucky law later in the month.

In August, an 11th U.S. Circuit panel lifted an injunction on an Alabama law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

“Those decisions demonstrate that last year’s three-judge panel decision upholding an order blocking Arkansas’s law was erroneous, and that’s why I am asking the entire court to overrule that decision,” Griffin said in the press release.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Georgia allowed the state’s gender-affirming care ban to go into effect after it was temporarily blocked in August.

Meanwhile, court orders in Florida and Indiana have temporarily blocked enforcement of those states’ gender-affirming care bans, to different extents. Florida is in the same judicial district as Alabama and Georgia.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which represented the plaintiffs that sued over the SAFE Act, believes Griffin and other officials “have no business meddling in people’s private decisions,” communications director Megan Bailey said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Moody’s ruling against the SAFE Act was “not only legally sound but also a vital step in protecting the health, lives and rights of marginalized and vulnerable young people,” Bailey said.

“This continued legal maneuvering is not only wasteful to taxpayers, but also unnecessarily harms transgender youth who deserve to access the lifesaving care they need without discrimination,” she said. “We will vigorously oppose this attempt to roll back the clock on progress and will continue to advocate for the rights and dignity of every Arkansan.”

Tess Vrbin is a reporter with the nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization Arkansas Advocate. It is part of the States Newsroom which is supported by grants and a coalition of readers and donors.