A dozen companies and industry groups signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed Wednesday against the state's effort to overturn a court ruling that blocks Arkansas' ban on gender-transition treatment for minors.
Act 626, which the Arkansas General Assembly passed in 2021, prohibits doctors from providing gender-affirming hormones and surgical procedures to transgender young people.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas sued over the law, and a federal judge blocked its implementation in July. The state has appealed that ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis.
The brief is signed by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Walton Family Foundation, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Northwest Arkansas Council and the Interpublic Group of Companies, as well as the companies LiveRamp, Acxiom, Kinesso, Asana, Xperi, Acoustic and Blue Star Business Services.
If the court's ruling is reversed and the law is allowed to go into effect, the brief argues, those businesses and the industry group's members will suffer, and the law will directly harm the companies' employees who have transgender children by depriving them of necessary gender-affirming care.
The law will also harm businesses' ability to attract and retain a diverse, inclusive and talented workforce, the brief states, which will compromise their ability to compete.
The ban will harm the signing corporations, as well as other Arkansas businesses by adversely affecting commerce in the state, the brief adds.
Additionally, the brief argues that if the court were to declare the law constitutional, the parties are concerned that similar laws could be enacted in other states, "inflicting all of these harms on families -- and businesses -- across the country."
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the law does not discriminate against transgender people and that she is fighting to protect children.
"Arkansas's new law absolutely does not discriminate based on transgender status as this frivolous action suggests. It is not irrational to protect these children, as young as 9 years of age, from experimental procedures that have irreversible, physical consequences in the absence of any evidence whatsoever that those procedures have any benefit," Rutledge said in a written statement.
Several of the same businesses and groups submitted a similar brief in July, when the case was awaiting a ruling from U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr.
Moody issued a ruling from the bench to temporarily block the law later that month and deny a motion to dismiss from the state.
The ACLU of Arkansas had sued the state last May on behalf of four transgender young people and their families living in Arkansas, saying the GOP-sponsored legislation would prohibit health care professionals from providing or referring transgender young people for medically necessary care. Two physicians who treat transgender youths are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Information for this article was contributed by Dale Ellis of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.