Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday made the state the first to ban gender-confirming care of transgender minors, overriding Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto the day before.
The law prohibits physicians from providing gender-confirming medical care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy and prevents them from referring minors to other providers.
Major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics opposed the bill, and proponents of transgenderism say it could have serious negative effects on trans youth in the state.
Chase Strangio, deputy director of transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union̵
“This bill will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state and send a terrible and heartbreaking message to the transsexual youth who see in fear,” Strangio said. “Gender-affirming care is life-saving care and the prohibition that care will have devastating and in some cases deadly consequences. Trans youth in Arkansas: We will continue to fight for you.”
Hutchinson, a Republican, announced during a news conference Monday that he would veto the bill, calling it “a major government breach.”
He said the GOP-controlled House and Senate would likely override his veto, but that he was “hoping my action will get conservative Republican lawmakers to rethink the issue and hopefully come up with a more restrained approach that allows a study of the science and ethics surrounding the issue before they act. “
The measure’s sponsor referred to the procedures as experimentation and compared the restriction with other limits that the state imposes on minors.
“They have to be 18 years old before they make those decisions,” the Republican rep said. Robin Lundstrum.
Hutchinson said the measure went too far in interfering with parents and doctors, noting that it would abolish the care of transgender youth already in treatment. He said he would have signed the bill if it had only focused on gender reassignment surgery, which is not currently being performed on minors in the state.
The law will not enter into force until the end of July at the earliest. The ACLU said it planned to challenge the measure before then.
“This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over – and we are in it in the long run,” Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas’ CEO, said in a statement.
The override, which needed only a simple majority, went smoothly in both chambers, with House voting 72-25 in favor and the Senate 25-8.
The ban was passed over the course of a year in which bills targeted at transgender people have emerged easily in Arkansas and other states. Hutchinson recently signed legislation banning transgender women and girls from competing on teams that match their gender identities, a ban that has also been passed in Tennessee and Mississippi this year.
Hutchinson also recently signed legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections.
The foundation, which was set up by the family of Bentonville-based Walmart founder Tuesday, raised concerns about recent measures targeting LGBTQ people.
“This trend is harmful and sends the wrong message to those who are willing to invest in or visit our state,” Tom Walton told the Walton Family Foundation in a statement released before the vote.
A legislative opponent of the measure compared it to the anti-integration bills Arkansas’ legislature passed in 1958 in opposition to the previous year’s desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.
“What I see, this bill, is the most powerful again that bullies the most vulnerable people in our state,” Democratic Senator Clarke Tucker said before the vote.
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