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Arkansas Back in Court to Block Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Youth


Friday, June 17, 2022   

Oral arguments were held this week on an appeal blocking an Arkansas law from going into effect. The law would prevent young people from getting gender-affirming health care.

Act 626 of 2021 banned health care professionals from providing or referring transgender youth for medical care.

The ACLU of Arkansas filed suit against the state, and a federal judge in the Eastern District of Arkansas granted a preliminary injunction last July.

Now, the state is appealing the decision, saying gender-affirming care is experimental and potentially harmful to youth.

Sarah Everett, policy director for the ACLU of Arkansas, said the clients they represent in the case believe this kind of care has been lifesaving.

"Gender dysphoria is a difficult problem to live with as a young person, especially when you add the kind of bullying and discrimination they face on top of that," Everett observed. "Gender-affirming care helps to bring their physical appearance into alignment with their gender identity."

The Arkansas Legislature overrode a veto of the act last year by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The act would also permit private insurers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for transgender people of any age.

Arkansas was the first state to pass a ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. Since then, an Alabama law has gone into effect and lawmakers in other states have introduced similar legislation. Everett sees the case as a possible litmus test for health care access for transgender youth on a national level.

"We hope that our District Court decision would deter other states from doing the same," Everett stressed. "And we hope that a good decision from the Eighth Circuit will cement the fact that kids have a right to receive this care, not to be discriminated against simply because they're transgender."

U.S. District Court Judge James M. Moody, Jr., who temporarily blocked Act 626 from going into effect, is scheduled to hear the case, Brandt v. Rutledge, this October.

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