LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A federal judge has permanently blocked the country’s first law banning gender-affirming child care, marking a victory for LGBTQ advocates.
The sentence by US District Judge James Moody Jr. on Tuesday says the state of Arkansas violated several sections of the US constitution when it banned all gender-affirming treatments for people under 18. The 80-page ruling states that depriving trans children of treatments such as hormone therapy would cause them irreparable harm and that delaying treatment until adulthood would force adolescents to undergo changes incompatible with their gender identity.
The verdict comes later an eight-day trial in December, where several state witnesses admitted they had no experience treating transgender teens and offered no evidence to challenge decades of scientific research.
« Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence has shown that banned medical treatments improve the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting them, the state has undermined the interests it claims to promote, » it reads. in the sentence. . « Testimony from well-accredited experts, physicians who provide gender-affirming medical care in Arkansas, and families who rely on such care directly refute any State claims that the law promotes an interest in child protection. »
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families of transgender teenagers and two doctors. Judge Moody’s previously blocked the law days before it took effect in 2021.
Arkansas became the first state in the nation to ban gender-affirming assistance for trans children when lawmakers passed Bill 626 in 2021. Alabama, Florida, and Indiana have similar laws on the books, all of which are temporarily suspended. .
« I am so grateful that the judge heard my experience of how this healthcare changed my life for the better and saw the dangerous impact this law could have on my life and the lives of countless other transgender people, » she said Dylan Brandt, a transgender. teenager and one of the plaintiffs in the case.
A request for comment from Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin was not returned by the deadline.
The Moody’s ruling states that Law 626 violates three parts of the United States Constitution: the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The ACLU had argued that Arkansas law limited the free speech rights of physicians by prohibiting them from referring patients to other providers for gender-affirming care. Moody’s agreed, saying limiting the related talk to only « gender transition procedures » was a violation of the First Amendment.
The ruling also finds that the law violates Arkansans’ due process rights by stripping parents of the ability to make decisions about their children’s health care. She adds that the law discriminates against minors based on their sex since it would not prohibit minors from accessing gender-affirming care if it aligns with their assigned sex at birth.
While Republicans enjoy a comfortable majority in both houses of the Arkansas Legislature, the passage of Bill 626 has not been without controversy.
After hearing hours of testimony from lawyers and trans youth, lawmakers gave final approval to the bill in April of 2021. The then-Governor. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, vetoed the bill, saying he would interfere with families’ private health care decisions.
In Arkansas, a simple majority vote is required in both the House and Senate to override a governor’s veto. Lawmakers in both houses easily overrode Hutchinson’s veto the next day, paving the way for the law to go into effect later that year.
« I hope my veto will cause my fellow Republicans across the country to resist the temptation to put the state at the center of every decision parents and caregivers make, » Hutchinson said at the time.
In August 2021, Judge Moody’s — the same judge who wrote Tuesday’s ruling — issued a temporary restraining order against Act 626. A federal appeals court later upheld the lower court’s ruling in August 2022.
In an eight-day trial in December, attorneys for the state attorney general’s office argued that it was the state’s duty to protect children from « irreversible » medical procedures. Several state witnesses spoke out against gender-affirming treatments, such as puberty blockers and hormones, but admitted they never prescribed them to transgender teens.
The court found that three of the state’s witnesses were recruited at a meeting of the Christian advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom held specifically to gather witnesses trained in various fields who would be willing to testify in favor of passed laws limiting assistance to transgenders.
“While there is nothing nefarious about an organization recruiting witnesses to testify for their case, it is clear from hearing testimony that Professor Mark Regnerus, Dr Paul Hruz and Dr. [Patrick] Lappert was testifying more from a religious doctrinal point of view rather than that required of experts, » the ruling read.