A federal judge has permanently blocked Arkansas’ first-in-the-nation law banning gender-affirming care for minors, signaling a major victory for LGBTQ advocates as a growing number of Republican-led states adopt similar restrictions.
U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. on Tuesday ruled that the state of Arkansas violated several sections of the U.S. Constitution when it banned all gender-affirming treatments for people under 18.
In his 80-page ruling, Moody says depriving transgender minors of treatments like hormone therapy would cause them irreparable harm, and that delaying care until adulthood would force teens to go through changes inconsistent with their gender identity.
The verdict comes after an eight-day trial in December where several of the state’s witnesses admitted in court that they didn’t have any experience treating transgender teens, and failed to offer evidence to dispute decades of well-established scientific research.
“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting it, the State undermined the interests it claims to be advancing,” the ruling reads. “The testimony of well-credentialed experts, doctors who provide gender-affirming medical care in Arkansas, and families that rely on that care directly refutes any claim by the State that the Act advances an interest in protecting children.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought the suit on behalf of families of transgender teens and two physicians after Arkansas became the first state in the nation to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors when lawmakers passed Act 626 in 2021. Judge Moody previously blocked the law days before it was set to take effect in 2021.
“This decision sends a clear message. Fear-mongering and misinformation about this health care do not hold up to scrutiny; it hurts trans youth and must end,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. “Science, medicine, and law are clear: gender-affirming care is necessary to ensure these young Arkansans can thrive and be healthy.”
Today is the first time a federal court has ruled that gender-affirming care bans are unconstitutional.
To trans kids everywhere — we see you, and we won't stop fighting alongside you. pic.twitter.com/9jYl2Sa9Wl
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 21, 2023
Alabama, Florida and Indiana have similar laws on the books, all of which are temporarily on hold.
“I’m so grateful the judge heard my experience of how this health care has changed my life for the better and saw the dangerous impact this law could have on my life and that of countless other transgender people,” said Dylan Brandt, a transgender teenager and one of the plaintiffs in the case.
In a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday night, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin wrote, “Judge Moody misses what is widely known: There is no scientific evidence that any child will benefit from these procedures, while the consequences are harmful and often permanent. We will appeal to the Eighth Circuit.”