Arkansas loses bid to revive ban on gender transition for minors

·2 min read
Transgender rights activist waves a transgender flag as they protest the killings of transgender women this year, at a rally in Washington Square Park

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) -A federal appeals court on Thursday refused to revive Arkansas's first-of-its-kind law prohibiting doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormones and surgery as part of gender transition treatment for minors.

A unanimous panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's order temporarily blocking the ban amid a legal challenge, finding there was "substantial evidence" that it "prohibits medical treatment that conforms with the recognized standard of care."

The order means the state cannot enforce the ban while the legal challenge is ongoing.

"We are relieved for trans youth," said Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which sued the state on behalf of families challenging the ban. "Research shows that denying gender-affirming care to transgender youth contributes to depression, isolation, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide."

Amanda Priest, a spokesperson for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said Rutledge was "extremely disappointed in today's dangerously wrong decision" and would seek further review.

Arkansas was the first U.S. state to ban certain gender-transition treatments for minors in April 2021, with lawmakers overriding a veto by Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson to pass the measure. Arizona, Alabama and Texas have since passed similar measures.

Such laws are part of a broader trend of legislation in Republican-led states directed at transgender youth, including measures that bar classroom discussion of gender identity, block access to healthcare to help young people transition and restrict participation in sports.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in June signed an executive order directing federal health and education agencies to work to expand access to healthcare for transgender people in the face of new restrictions.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Bill Berkrot and Mark Porter)