A federal judge was asked Tuesday to issue a preliminary injunction to block implementation of a law passed this year in Arkansas that would ban certain medical treatments for transgender youths in the state.
The ACLU of Arkansas filed a lawsuit last month seeking to block the law, which it said would prohibit health care professionals from providing or referring transgender young people for medically necessary health care. The GOP-sponsored legislation prohibits the use of hormones and puberty-blocking drugs for youths and gender-affirming surgical procedures, and would also prohibit insurance coverage for gender-affirmation treatment for youths and remove any requirement that insurance carriers provide any coverage for gender-affirmation procedures in general.
The legislation, introduced as House Bill 1570, sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, was passed in the House and Senate in March before being vetoed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on April 5. Less than 24 hours later, both chambers voted by overwhelming margins to override the governor's veto, making the law Act 626 of 2021.
The lawsuit, Dylan Brandt, et al., v. Leslie Rutledge, et al., was filed on behalf of four transgender teens and their families living in Arkansas and two physicians, Michele Hutchison and Kathryn Stambaugh. It asks that the court enter a judgment declaring that the law is unenforceable because of the constitutional violations it presents, and that preliminary and permanent injunctions be granted to block its implementation.
"We've said all along that we had no intention of allowing this harmful and unconstitutional law to stand – and today's motion asks the court to block this law from taking effect as we work to strike it down for good," said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. "We're hopeful that the court will grant this injunction so transgender youth can continue to receive medically necessary care while our case proceeds."
In a memorandum in support of the injunction, the ACLU wrote, "Arkansas's Health Care Ban, which is the only law of its kind in the United States, is not just harmful, it is also unconstitutional, warranting a preliminary injunction until the Court can resolve the case on its merits."
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge vowed to defend the law in a statement emailed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on May 25, shortly after the lawsuit was filed in federal court.
"I will aggressively defend Arkansas's law which strongly limits permanent, life-altering sex changes to adolescents," Rutledge said in the statement. "I won't sit idly by while radical groups such as the ACLU use our children as pawns for their own social agenda."
Dickson said the bill was opposed by all major medical associations and that the law was the most restrictive in the nation to date.
The law is set to take effect July 28 unless the court intervenes. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr.