Courtroom: Arkansas cannot ban therapy of transgender youngsters

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A federal appeals court on Thursday said Arkansas was unable to enforce its ban on transgender children receiving gender-affirming medical care.

The three-judge panel of the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judge’s ruling to temporarily block the state from enforcing the 2021 law. A hearing is scheduled for October before the same judge on whether to block the law permanently.

Arkansas was the first state to impose such a ban, barring doctors from giving gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under the age of 18, or referring them to another provider for such treatment. There are no doctors who perform gender affirmation surgery on minors in the state.

“Because the sex of a minor at birth determines whether a minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law or not, Law 626 discriminates on the basis of gender,” the court’s ruling said Thursday.

American Civil Liberties Union challenged law on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provided gender-confirming care.

“The Eighth Circuit is very clear that state bans on treatment are not advancing important government interests and state defenses of the law are lacking in legal support or evidence,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender Justice at ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement. “The state has no business decisively choosing treatment for this ban.”

Arkansas argues, the restriction is within the state’s authority to regulate medical practice.

Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will ask the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the ruling, spokeswoman Amanda Priest said, adding that Rutledge was “deeply disappointed by today’s dangerous wrongful decision by a three-judge panel.”

The 8th circuit includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Dakota. The ruling on the Arkansas law comes after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals covering Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia ruled last week. that gender dysphoria is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Experts and advocates say the decision could help deter political conservatives’ efforts to limit access to gender-affirming care.

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed the Arkansas ban last year, and GOP lawmakers overruled he. Pediatricians, social workers and parents of transgender youth said the move would harm communities already at risk for depression and suicide. Hutchinson said he would sign such a law if it focused solely on gender confirmation operations.

On Thursday, he called the Arkansas ban “the most extreme law in the country” and urged lawmakers to reduce it next year “with a narrower focus on protecting our children.”

“No other state has passed such a law that interferes with parents making health care decisions for minors based on physician recommendations when those recommendations are based on generally accepted medical guidelines,” said Hutchinson, who left the office. in January, in a statement. .

Several medical groups, including the American Medical Association, oppose the ban and say the treatment is safe if administered correctly. The Justice Department also opposed the ban as unconstitutional.

An ACLU attorney told an appeals panel in June that reinstating the restrictions would create uncertainty for the family.

A federal judge in May was blocked similar laws in Alabama. Tennessee ban enacted last year regarding transgender care for adolescents, which is limited to administering gender-confirming hormone therapy to prepubertal minors, remains in force.

In Texaschild welfare officials have been blocked from investigation three families of transgender adolescents for gender-confirmation care that minors receive. A state judge is considering whether to prevent additional investigations.

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