A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked an Arkansas law that would have barred state doctors from providing transition-related health care – such as hormones and puberty blockers – to transgender minors.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the law in May on behalf of four trans youth and their parents, as well as two gender-affirming health care providers, arguing it violates the U.S. Constitution.
Supporters of the law argue that transitional health care is “experimental” and transgender minors are too young to receive care.
Judge James M. Moody Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas heard arguments in the case Wednesday morning, granting the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law, which was due to come into effect next week.
Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement that the decision “sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is vital care, and we will not let the politicians in Arkansas – or anywhere else – take it away. ”
“Today’s victory is a testament to the trans youth of Arkansas and its allies, who have never given up on the fight to protect access to gender-based care and who will continue to defend the rights of all trans people to be genuine themselves, free from discrimination, ”she said. “We will not rest until this cruel and unconstitutional law is permanently overturned. ”
In addition to the ACLU, plaintiffs are represented by the Arkansas ACLU and the law firms Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Gill Ragon Owen and the law firm Walas.
The lawsuit names Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and members of the Arkansas State Medical Council as defendants.
Rutledge told NBC News in an email after the ACLU filed a complaint that it “would aggressively defend Arkansas law which strongly limits permanent and life-altering sexual changes for teens.”
“I will not stand idly by while radical groups such as the ACLU use our children as pawns for their own social agenda,” she said.
The Arkansas State Medical Board said it is not commenting on pending litigation.
The state has received the backing of 17 state attorneys general who have filed an amicus brief in the case – a move that lawyers say is largely unprecedented, the 19th reported.
This level of support shows that the temporary injunction is not the end, but the plaintiffs still celebrated it as a victory.
Dylan Brandt, one of the youth represented by the ACLU, told a press conference after Wednesday’s hearing that the plaintiffs wanted other trans children to know that “we have your back.”
“We should all have the freedom to make choices about our medical care with the support of our parents and experts in the field,” said the 15-year-old.
Dylan Brandt’s mother, Joanna Brandt, has spoken on behalf of the parents involved in the lawsuit.
“We have seen first-hand the benefits of this health care,” she said at the press conference. “Our children were in pain, and with this care they have a level of hope and happiness that we have never seen. We are no different from other Arkansas parents. We love our children and we want them to grow up healthy, loved and secure. “
Joanna Brandt said the law “ignores” what medical professionals say about gender care. Major medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Endocrine Society, among others, support access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
Research has shown that access to care such as puberty blockers, which temporarily suspend puberty, are linked to a reduced risk of suicide in trans youth.
At least one Arkansas doctor said he saw the effects of the state’s proposal even before it became law.
Immediately after the bill was passed by the House in late March, Michele Hutchison, a pediatrician at the Gender Spectrum Clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and another complainant in the case, testified before the State Senate that he There were “several children in our emergency room because of a suicide attempt last week alone.”
The ACLU, along with state grassroots groups such as Intransitive Arkansas, a trans advocacy group, called on Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the bill after he ‘it was approved by the legislature in March, and it did.
At the time, he called the measure “broad government sweep” over private medical decisions, but Arkansas lawmakers overturned the veto the next day.
Some Arkansas families with trans children have since left the state. Others, including some of those represented by the ACLU, said they would leave if the law was not ultimately overturned.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Chase Strangio, an attorney for the ACLU, noted that the group has recently had success in a number of states where measures targeting trans people have been blocked by judges. pending litigation.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Tennessee blocked a law that requires companies to publish a notice if they allow transgender people to use toilets that match their gender identities. Last year, an Idaho federal judge also blocked a law that would have banned transgender girls from playing on women’s sports teams in college, high school and university.
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