LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court said Thursday that Arkansas cannot enforce its ban on transgender children receiving gender-affirming medical care.
A panel of three judges of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of a judge temporarily blocking the state from enforcing the 2021 law. the law.
Arkansas was the first state to issue such a ban, prohibiting doctors from giving gender-confirming hormone treatments, puberty blockers, or surgery to anyone under the age of 18, or referring them to other providers for the treatment. There are no doctors who perform gender-confirming surgery on minors in the state.
“Because the minor’s gender at birth determines whether the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Law 626 discriminates on the basis of gender,” the court’s ruling said Thursday.
The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender-confirming treatments.
“The Eighth Circuit was abundantly clear that the state’s ban on care does not harm important government interests and that the state’s defense of the law lacks legal or evidentiary support,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement. “The state has nothing to do with categorically emphasizing this concern for the ban.”
Arkansas argued that the restriction is within the state’s authority to regulate medical practices.
Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will ask the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the ruling, spokeswoman Amanda Priest said, adding that Rutledge was “extremely disappointed in today’s dangerously wrong decision by the three-member panel.”
The 8th circuit covers Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Arkansas’ ruling comes after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, ruled last week that gender dysphoria is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Experts and advocates have said the decision could help block conservative political efforts to limit access to gender-affirming care.
Republican Administration Asa Hutchinson vetoed Arkansas ban last year, overriding GOP lawmakers it. Pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth said the measure would harm a community already at risk of depression and suicide. Hutchinson has said he would sign such legislation if it focused only on gender-confirming surgery.
On Thursday, he called the Arkansas ban the “most extreme law in the country” and urged lawmakers to scale it back next year “with a narrower focus to protect our children.”
“No other state has passed a law like this that hinders a parent from making health care decisions for underage children based on a doctor’s recommendations when the recommendations are based on widely accepted medical guidance,” said Hutchinson, who wrote in the statement. January leaves office, in a statement.
Multiple medical groups, including the American Medical Association, oppose the ban and have said the care is safe when properly administered. The Justice Department has also opposed the ban as unconstitutional.
An ACLU attorney told the appeals panel in June that reinstating the restriction would create uncertainty for families.
A federal judge in May blocked a similar law in Alabama. A Tennessee ban introduced last year on transgender treatments for young people, which is limited to providing gender-affirming hormone treatment to prepubescent minors, remains in effect.
In Texaschild welfare officials have been blocked from investigation three families of transgender youth about gender-affirming care the minors received. A state judge considers preventing additional investigation.