Arkansas lawmakers override Hutchinson veto on transgender youth bill

The Arkansas State Legislature on Tuesday voted to override Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonArkansas reports biggest one-day spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations Arkansas governor to ask state legislature to allow masks in schools Judge orders Arkansas to resume pandemic unemployment benefits MORE’s (R) veto on legislation that bans gender reassignment surgeries and other treatments for transgender youth.

The majority-Republican state House voted 72 to 25 to approve the controversial bill before sending the legislation back to the state Senate, which rejected the governor’s veto of the bill in a 25-8 vote, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Both chambers required a simple majority to override the veto.

Under the bill, physicians are banned from giving gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to those younger than 18. The legislation also restricts doctors from giving recommendations to other providers for these treatments.

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Hutchinson decried the bill as a form of government overreach while announcing on Monday that he would veto the legislation.

"If [the bill] becomes law we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters dealing with young people," he said.

The governor also said he would not have vetoed the bill if it applied only to gender confirming surgery, which is currently not conducted on minors in the state. 

His refusal to sign the bill restricting treatment for transgender youth came after he signed a different piece of legislation last month preventing transgender women and girls from participating on K-12 and collegiate-level sports teams aligned with their gender identity.

Advocates and experts have condemned the vetoed bill, saying it's a form of discrimination.

The American Civil Liberties Union has promised to file a lawsuit preventing the law from being enforced, with ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson saying the legislators "disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth."

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"This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over — and we’re in it for the long haul," Dickson said. "Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it’s also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court."

But proponents of the bill said it will benefit the health and safety of children in the state.

The Arkansas State Legislature's overwhelming approval for the bill comes as lawmakers in several other states have proposed and advocated for bills that would limit transgender access, including in health care and sports teams. 

Updated at 3:51 p.m.