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Federal judges block transgender restrictions in Arkansas and West Virginia

Federal judges on Wednesday temporarily blocked an Arkansas law banning gender-confirming treatments for transgender youth and a West Virginia ban on trans athletes in women’s sport, two major victories for LGBTQ defenders against a wave of restrictions approved by Republican lawmakers.

Arkansas’ ruling prevents the state from enforcing the law that made it the first state to ban doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or gender-affirming surgery to any person under the age of 18. The law, which was due to come into force on July 28, also prohibited doctors from referring minors to other providers for such treatment.

U.S. District Judge Jay Moody said the plaintiffs would likely succeed in their challenge and allowing its application would harm transgender youth currently receiving treatment.

“Withdrawing this care halfway from these patients, or minors, would cause irreparable harm,” Moody said.

The laws were among many restrictions on the rights of transgender people that were enacted in Republican states this year. The governor of Tennessee in May signed a ban on gender-confirming treatments similar to that in Arkansas. West Virginia was one of at least seven states that have approved restrictions on trans athletes.

Moody’s decision came the same day a federal judge issued an injunction preventing West Virginia from applying its transgender athlete restriction to an 11-year-old trans girl who had hoped to compete in a cross-country competition in college. .

Transgender youth fight for their rights


Becky Pepper-Jackson said she came from a family of runners and just wanted to compete with her classmates.

“I’m excited to know that I will be able to try for the women’s cross country team and keep up with my family’s running shoes,” she said in a statement released later Wednesday by the LGBTQ interest group. Lambda Legal. “It hurts the state of West Virginia trying to stop me from chasing my dreams. I just want to play.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in West Virginia on behalf of Pepper-Jackson. The ACLU had sued Arkansas for its treatment ban on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender-confirming treatment.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin said in his order that it was in the public interest to uphold the young girl’s constitutional right not to be treated differently from her peers “because any infringement of (her) personal rights is an infringement of American rights which we all hold collectively. “

West Virginia law, signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice in April, prohibits transgender athletes from participating in female sports in middle and high schools and colleges. A spokeswoman for the state’s education ministry did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the decision.

Last month, the US Department of Justice criticized the two-state bans as unconstitutional, filing expressions of interest siding with opponents of the restrictions. The DOJ said the laws of both states violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. He also said West Virginia law violates Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funds.

The ACLU argued that Arkansas’ ban would seriously harm transgender youth in the state and violate their constitutional rights.

“This move sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is life-saving care, and we will not let politicians in Arkansas – or for that matter – take it away,” he said. said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU. of Arkansas.

An ACLU lawyer had said the ban forced some families to consider uprooting from their homes to move to other states where care was legal.

Federal judges block transgender restrictions in Arkansas and West Virginia
Dylan Brandt speaks at a press conference outside the Federal Courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Brandt, 15, has received hormonal treatment and is one of several transgender youth who challenged a state law prohibiting sex upholding trans care for minors. A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the application of this law.

Andrew DeMillo / AP

“This care gave me the confidence I didn’t know I had,” Dylan Brandt, a 15-year-old transgender boy from Greenwood who is one of the complainants, said at a press conference after the decision.

The Republican-dominated Arkansas legislature overturned GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto on the measure. Hutchinson vetoed the ban following calls from pediatricians, social workers and parents of transgender youth who said it would harm a community already at risk of depression and suicide.

Hutchinson said the ruling indicates the law will be overturned for the same reason he vetoed it.

“The act was too extreme and brought no relief to young people who are currently on hormone therapy with their parents’ consent and under the care of a doctor,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “If the act had been more limited, like banning sex reassignment surgery for people under 18, then I suspect the outcome would have been different.”

There are currently no doctors in Arkansas who perform such surgeries on minors.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said she plans to appeal the decision.

“I will aggressively defend the law of Arkansas, which strongly restricts permanent and life-altering sexual changes in adolescents,” Rutledge said. “I will not stand idly by while radical groups such as the ACLU use our children as pawns for their own social agenda.”

Moody made the decision shortly after hearing arguments from opponents of the law and the state for about an hour and a half.

The judge appeared skeptical of the state’s argument that the ban was aimed at procedure and not transgender people. For example, he asked why a minor born as a male should be allowed to receive testosterone but not a minor born as a female.

“How do you justify giving that to one sex but not the other and not calling it sex discrimination?” asked Moody.

Arkansas argued that the state has a legitimate interest in prohibiting proceedings for minors. Republican attorneys general in 17 states have asked Moody to uphold the ban.

Several large medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have filed a brief with the court challenging the Arkansas ban. The State Chamber of Commerce and the Walton Family Foundation, founded by relatives of the Arkansas-based founder of Walmart, also asked the court to block the ban.


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