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Judge Blocks Ban On Transgender Arkansas Youth From Transition-Related Health Care

ACLU of Arkansas

A law that bans transgender Arkansans younger than 18 from accessing transition-related health care, has been blocked from becoming law.

U.S. District Judge Jay Moody issued the ruling Wednesday blocking the enforcement of Act 626, which would have been gone into effect on July 28. The act blocks any transgender child from seeking or accessing health care related to their transition, such as puberty blockers, even with consent from parents or medical professionals.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in May on the behalf of four Arkansas transgender youth and their families as well as two medical professionals in Arkansas who treat transgender youth. 

Speaking during a news conference after the decision, Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ and HIV project, spoke on the lawsuit, as well as about the plaintiffs in the case.

"These young people, Sabrina and Dylan and Parker and Brooke, they know exactly who they are. Their parents love them for exactly who they are and we’re going to fight this law as far and as long as we need to, to make sure that no young person in Arkansas has to worry about losing their medical care," Strangio said.

Plaintiffs Dylan Brandt and his mother Joanna Brandt addressed reporters during the news conference. Dylan Brandt spoke on behalf of the other trans youth who are plaintiffs.

"We want other trans kids to know that you are not alone. We have your back and will continue to fight on your behalf," Dylan Brandt said. Joanna Brandt said she and other parents of trans kids have seen for themselves the benefits this health care provides.

"We are no different than any other parent in Arkansas. We love our kids. We want them to grow up healthy, loved and safe. This bill ignores what all major medical professionals have said about the dangers of trans kids forced to live in a body that does not match their gender identity," Joanna Brandt said. "The legislators have ignored medical professionals and what parents of kids with real lived experiences have said."

In a statement issued after the ruling, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would be appealing the decision, saying "I will aggressively defend Arkansas’s law which strongly limits permanent, life-altering sex changes to adolescents."

In an emailed statement, Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale,  one of the sponsors of Act 626 said she was grateful for Rutledge's decision to appeal the ruling.

"I'm confident that when the facts come out, all will clearly see the need to protect children from the harms associated with these procedures," Lundstrum said.  

State legislators passed the ban, entitled the Save Adolescents from Experimentation or SAFE Act, during the 2021 Arkansas Legislative Session. Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the bill, calling it too broad and a "government overreach." Legislators later overrode the veto.

Hutchinson said in a statement after Wednesday's ruling, "While this is a preliminary ruling, it appears the act will be struck down for the same reason that I vetoed it. The act was too extreme and did not provide any relief for those young people currently undergoing hormone treatment with the consent of their parents and under the care of a physician.

The governor did however sign into law, an act that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports that align with their gender identity.

Wednesday’s decision comes one day after another federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a law banning nearly all abortions in Arkansas from going into effect. The ACLU of Arkansas filed the lawsuit against that law also in May.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include statements from one of the bill's sponsors and Gov. Asa Hutchinson. 

Sarah Kellogg was a Politics and Government reporter for KUAR from November 2018- August 2021.
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