Federal judge blocks Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

Federal judge blocks Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth
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A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the Arkansas law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth as part of the state’s legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU requested a preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge James Moody over the law, which punishes physicians for giving gender confirming treatment to minors and recommending other providers for such care.

Moody, an Obama appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, granted the injunction, which he initially announced his ruling in a bench decision, according to the organization. He also denied the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

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The law, which was set to go into effect July 28, passed earlier this year after the Republican-led Arkansas legislature overrode a veto from 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 (R). Supporters of the bill previously argued it will promote children’s health and safety. 

But the ACLU challenged the legislation through a lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth, their families and two doctors, warning the bill would have “devastating consequences” in the state. 

Holly Dickson, the executive director of ACLU Arkansas, praised the temporary injunction in a statement, saying the ruling is a “testament to the trans youth of Arkansas and their allies.” 

“This ruling sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is life-saving care, and we won’t let politicians in Arkansas — or anywhere else — take it away,” she said. 

“We won’t rest until this cruel and unconstitutional law is struck down for good,” she added.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) announced that the state will appeal the ruling, saying "we cannot allow children as young as 9 years old to receive experimental procedures that have irreversible, physical consequences." 

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“I will aggressively defend Arkansas’s law which strongly limits permanent, life-altering sex changes to adolescents," she said. "I will not sit idly by while radical groups such as the ACLU use our children as pawns for their own social agenda." 

The ruling comes after another federal judge issued a preliminary injunction stopping Tennessee from mandating businesses and facilities that allow transgender people to use bathrooms matching their gender identity to post a sign. 

This year, lawmakers across several states proposed and promoted legislation that would limit transgender access, including in health care and sports. 

Hutchinson, who vetoed the transgender youth treatment ban designating it as government overreach, signed other legislation in March that stops transgender women and girls from participating in K-12 and collegiate-level teams aligned with their gender identity.

Arkansas's law banning nearly all abortions was also blocked this week by a federal judge who called it "categorically unconstitutional."

Updated at 4:00 p.m.