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US Courts Block Anti-Trans Legislation

New Rulings Condemn Anti-Trans Discrimination

Dylan Brandt speaks at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, US, July 21, 2021. © 2021 Andrew DeMillo/AP Photo

In a victory for transgender rights, a federal district judge in Arkansas has permanently blocked the state’s ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children.

The ban, enacted in 2021, was the first in the United States to prohibit gender-affirming care, including interventions to delay the onset of puberty and hormone treatment. The legislation also prohibited gender-affirming surgery, even though these surgeries are exceedingly rare for children. Governor Asa Hutchinson initially vetoed the legislation, calling it “extreme,” but lawmakers successfully overrode his veto to make it law.

In the wake of the law’s passage in Arkansas, dozens of other states introduced similar bills. As of 2023, twenty US states have banned at least some medical care for transgender children, rejecting medically accepted best practices.

These bans put the health and rights of transgender children at risk. Studies have found that access to gender-affirming care can lessen depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts for recipients of that care. Major medical organizations have overwhelmingly opposed efforts to ban gender-affirming care.

These bills are part of a vicious backlash against transgender rights in the United States. They join hundreds of bills that aim to prohibit transgender children from playing sports, using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, and learning about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

The barrage of anti-transgender legislation has taken a toll on the mental health of transgender youth, and some families have moved to other states because they feel they can no longer care for their transgender children or guarantee their safety.

The court concluded that the ban in Arkansas was unconstitutional because it discriminated against transgender children, violated their parents’ rights to obtain medical care for their children, and violated the free expression of medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care.

The ruling is significant because it permanently prevents the state’s ban from taking effect, and this court isn’t alone in expressing skepticism over the constitutionality of these laws. Just weeks ago, federal judges in Florida and Indiana temporarily blocked bans on gender-affirming healthcare. A similar law in Alabama has been blocked as well.

While the court orders are laudable, the debate and passage of these rights-restricting laws has already done harm. Lawmakers should take the findings of these recent court decisions seriously, abandon their assault on transgender children’s rights, and ensure that transgender children are able to get the care they need.

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