“Victory!”: Federal judge strikes down Arkansas gender-affirming care ban

“Victory!”: Federal judge strikes down Arkansas gender-affirming care ban

Human rights defenders on Tuesday welcomed a ruling by a federal judge in Arkansas overturning that state’s law banning gender-affirming healthcare for children and teenagers, the first time such a prohibition has been struck down in the United States.

“I’m so grateful the judge heard my experience of how this healthcare has changed my life for the better and saw the dangerous impact this law could have on my life and that of countless other transgender people,” Dylan Brandt, the 17-year-old lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement published by the ACLU of Arkansas.

The civil liberties group filed the lawsuit on behalf of four trans youth, their families, and two doctors in response to Arkansas’ 2021 gender-affirming healthcare ban—the first such law passed in the United States.

“My mom and I wanted to fight this law not just to protect my healthcare, but also to ensure that transgender people like me can safely and fully live our truths,” Brandt added. “Transgender kids across the country are having their own futures threatened by laws like this one, and it’s up to all of us to speak out, fight back, and give them hope.”

ACLU of Arkansas executive director Holly Dickson said: “This decision sends a clear message. Fearmongering and misinformation about this healthcare do not hold up to scrutiny; it hurts trans youth and must end.”

“Science, medicine, and law are clear: gender-affirming care is necessary to ensure these young Arkansans can thrive and be healthy,” Dickson added.

Lacey Jennen, a plaintiff in the case, tweeted, “To say we are relieved is an understatement.”

Judge James M. Moody Jr. of Federal District Court in Little Rock—a nominee of former President Barack Obama—wrote in his 80-page ruling in Brandt v. Rutledge that Arkansas’ law discriminated against transgender people and violated doctors’ constitutional rights. Then-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, vetoed the bill after its approval by the GOP-controlled Legislature; however, lawmakers subsequently overrode the veto.

Moody also found that Arkansas officials had failed to substantially prove claims, including that gender-affirming healthcare is carelessly prescribed to youth and is “experimental.”

“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting it, the state undermined the interests it claims to be advancing,” Moody wrote.

“Further, the various claims underlying the state’s arguments that the act protects children and safeguards medical ethics do not explain why only gender-affirming medical care—and all gender-affirming medical care—is singled out for prohibition,” the judge added. “The testimony of well-credentialed experts, doctors who provide gender-affirming medical care in Arkansas, and families that rely on that care directly refutes any claim by the state that the act advances an interest in protecting children.”

At least 19 other states have passed legislation limiting or banning gender-affirming care for minors, with federal judges temporarily blocking similar laws in Alabama, Indiana, and Florida.

According to the website Trans Legislation Tracker, 558 anti-trans bills have been introduced in 49 states so far this year. Eighty-two of the proposals have been signed into law.