The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in May asking U.S. District Judge Jay Moody in Little Rock to repeal the law that made Arkansas the first state to prohibit physicians from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers, or sex reassignment surgery to children under the age of 18, or referring them to other providers for said treatment. The ACLU requested the preliminary injunction while it proceeded with its lawsuit.
Moody found that the plaintiffs were likely to be successful with their challenge and that allowing it to be enforced would harm transgender youth currently receiving the treatments.
“Withdrawing this care midway from these patients, or minors, would cause irreparable harm,” Moody said.
The law was due to take effect on July 28.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender-confirming treatments. The lawsuit argues that the ban would seriously harm transgender youth in the state and violate their constitutional rights.
“This ruling sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is life-saving care, and we will not allow politicians in Arkansas, or anywhere else, to take it away,” he said Holly Dickson, Executive Director of the ACLU. from Arkansas.
An ACLU attorney had said the ban was forcing some families to consider uprooting from their homes to move to other states where care was legal.
“This care has given me a confidence that I didn’t know I had,” Dylan Brandt, a 15-year-old transgender boy from Greenwood who is one of the plaintiffs, said at a news conference after the ruling.
Republican-dominated Arkansas Legislature overturned Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto on the measure. Hutchinson vetoed the ban following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and parents of transgender youth who said it would harm a community already at risk of depression and suicide.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said she planned to appeal the decision.
“I will vigorously defend Arkansas law, which vigorously limits permanent, life-altering sexual changes for teens,” Rutledge said. “I will not sit idly by while radical groups like the ACLU use our children as pawns in their own social agenda.”
Moody issued the ruling shortly after listening to arguments from opponents of the law and the state for about an hour and a half.
The judge appeared skeptical of the state’s argument that the ban was directed at procedure, not transgender people. For example, he questioned why a minor born male should be allowed testosterone, but not one who was born female.
“How do you justify giving that to one sex but not the other and not calling that sex discrimination?” Moody asked.
Arkansas argued that the state has a legitimate interest in banning the proceedings for minors. Republican attorneys general in 17 states asked Moody to maintain the ban.
Several major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, filed a brief in court challenging the ban. The State Chamber of Commerce and the Walton Family Foundation, which was founded by relatives from Arkansas WalmartThe founder also asked the court to block the ban.
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