Federal judges block transgender restrictions in 2 states
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — On Wednesday, federal judges temporarily blocked an Arkansas law banning gender confirmation treatments for transgender youth and a West Virginia ban on trans athletes in women’s sports, two major wins for LGBTQ advocates against a wave of restrictions approved by Republican lawmakers.
Arkansas’ decision prevents the state from enforcing the law that made it the first state to ban doctors from providing sex-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers or sex reassignment surgery to anyone under 18 years old. 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 concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their challenge and that allowing its enforcement would harm transgender youth currently receiving the treatments.
“Removing this mid-career from these patients, or minors, would cause irreparable harm,” Moody said.
The laws were among several 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 confirmation treatments similar to those in Arkansas. West Virginia was among at least seven states that approved restrictions on transgender athletes.
Moody’s decision came the same day a federal judge issued an injunction preventing West Virginia from enforcing its transgender athlete restriction on an 11-year-old trans girl who had hoped to compete in cross country in college.
Becky Pepper-Jackson said she came from a family of runners and just wanted to compete with her classmates.
“I’m thrilled to know that I will be able to try out for the women’s cross country team and follow my family’s running shoes,” she said in a statement released later Wednesday by the LGBTQ interest group Lambda Legal. “It hurt me that the state of West Virginia is trying to stop me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in West Virginia on Pepper-Jackson’s behalf. The ACLU had sued Arkansas over its treatment ban on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender-confirmation treatment.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin said in his order that it was in the public interest to uphold the girl’s constitutional right not to be treated differently from her peers “because any infringement of (her) rights personal is an infringement on the part of American rights that we all hold collectively.
The West Virginia law, signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice in April, prohibits transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports in middle schools, high schools and colleges. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the decision.
Last month, the US Department of Justice slammed the two states’ bans as unconstitutional, filing declarations of interest siding with those challenging the restrictions. The DOJ said both states’ laws violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. He also said the West Virginia law violates Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program or activity receiving federal funds.
The ACLU argued that Arkansas’ ban would seriously harm transgender youth in the state and violate their constitutional rights.
“This decision sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is life-saving care, and we won’t let the politicians of Arkansas — or anywhere else — prevail. “said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU. from Arkansas.
An ACLU attorney had said the ban forced some families to consider uprooting themselves from their homes to move to other states where care was legal.
“This care has given me a 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.
Arkansas’ Republican-dominated legislature overruled GOP Gov. 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 struck down for the same reason he vetoed.
“The act was too extreme and brought no relief to young people currently on hormone therapy with parental consent and under the care of a doctor,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “If the act would have been more limited, like banning sex reassignment surgery for those under 18, then I suspect the outcome would have been different.”
There are currently no physicians in Arkansas who perform such operations on minors.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said she plans to appeal the ruling.
“I will aggressively defend Arkansas law, which severely limits permanent, life-altering sexual changes for teens,” Rutledge said. “I will not sit idly by while radical groups like the ACLU use our children as pawns for their own social agenda.”
Moody’s issued the decision shortly after hearing arguments from opponents of the law and the state for about an hour and a half.
The judge was skeptical of the state’s argument that the ban was aimed at procedure, not transgender people. For example, he wondered why a minor born as a man should be allowed to receive testosterone, but not one born as a woman.
“How do you justify giving this to one sex but not the other and not calling it sex discrimination?” Moody asked.
Arkansas argued that the state has a legitimate interest in prohibiting juvenile proceedings. Republican attorneys general in 17 states have asked Moody to uphold the ban.
Several major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have filed briefs with the court challenging the Arkansas ban. The state Chamber of Commerce and the Walton Family Foundation, which was founded by relatives of the Arkansas-based Walmart founder, also asked the court to block the ban.
Raby reported from Charleston, West Virginia