US District Court Trial Challenging Arkansas’ Ban on Gender-Affirming Care Begins

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
October 14, 2022 10:45 am

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ACLU of Arkansas
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October 14, 2022

Gillian Branstetter, ACLU,

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Attorneys from the ACLU and the ACLU of Arkansas will be fighting a statewide ban in Arkansas on best practice medical care for transgender youth in a two-week trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas beginning October 17.

“Arkansas is our home,” said Lacey Jennen, mother of 17-year-old Sabrina. “We have lived here our entire lives, and our parents, siblings, grandparents, church, and entire support system are all here in Arkansas. We do not want to have to leave our home simply to be able to provide necessary medical care for our daughter. Sabrina is an amazing, smart, beautiful person and an incredible daughter. I wish that those politicians who passed this law would take the time to listen to the experiences of trans youth and to get to know people like our daughter.”

“Gender-affirming health care has helped Parker become the happy, healthy, confident guy he is today,” said Donnie Saxton, father of 17-year-old Parker. “Now he’s funny, outgoing, and always ready to face the day. He loves being active in choir, with his friends, and volunteering in our community. His transformation has been amazing to watch. That’s what is so hard about other people trying to take away the medical care that has enabled him to be his best self. I am worried all the progress Parker has made could be undone.”

“Families across Arkansas depend on this life-saving health care, and the effort to ban it is baseless and deadly,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “The risks of denying this care to young people who need it are grave and well-founded, while the law attempting to ban care has made Arkansas less safe and less welcoming for transgender youth, their families, and all who love them. We’re hopeful the district court will recognize the awful impact this ban has had on young people and their families and will ensure the ban never goes into effect.”

“This case is about the right of all Arkansans to access medical care free from discrimination on the basis of transgender status and sex,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. By singling out care for gender transition for categorical prohibition, Arkansas’ law violates the guarantees of equal protection and due process. As the court will hear, this sweeping intrusion into the rights of parents to access medically recommended treatment for their adolescent children is fundamentally indefensible under any standard of review. We’re so honored for this opportunity to defend the fundamental rights of these families, medical providers, and all transgender Arkansans.”

Four families of transgender youth and two doctors have challenged an Arkansas law that would prohibit healthcare professionals from providing or referring transgender youth under the age of 18 for medically necessary health care. The law would also bar any state funds or insurance coverage for gender-affirming health care for transgender people under 18, and it would allow private insurers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for people of any age. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that House Bill 1570 is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. A preliminary injunction from the district court has blocked enforcement of the law since July 2021 and, in August 2022, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this injunction.

HB 1570 was the first measure in the country outlawing gender-affirming medical care for transgender adolescents. A similar Alabama law is blocked by a May 2022 injunction from a federal district court, and an effort in Texas to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse under existing statutes is partially blocked by two injunctions issued from a Texas state court in March and July of 2022.

The lawsuit in Arkansas was filed by the ACLU’s Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the law firms of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Gill Ragon Owen, and the Walas Law Firm.

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