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Arkansas can’t ban treatment for transgender kids, appeals court rules

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Arkansas can’t enforce its ban on doctors providing certain types of care to transgender youth.

A three-judge panel of the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a temporary injunction made in July that blocked enforcement of the 2021 law.

“Because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Act 626 discriminates on the basis of sex,” the court’s ruling stated.

A trial is scheduled in Little Rock in October on whether to permanently block the mandate, which prohibits doctors from providing gender-confirming hormones, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the non-profit’s Arkansas affiliate filed suit challenging the law on behalf of four transgender youths, their parents and two doctors in the state.

“Today, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that no child should be denied medical care they need,” ACLU of Arkansas executive director Holly Dickson said in a statement.

Transgender teen Dylan Brandt, one of the youths named in the lawsuit, speaks outside the federal courthouse in Little Rock.
AP/Andrew DeMillo

The groups argued that the ban was unconstitutional for denying teenagers what it said was medically necessary treatment and for prohibiting doctors from “treating their patients in accordance with the well-established standards of care.”

“The state has no business categorically singling out this care for prohibition,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.

Advocates say that the measure would contribute to depression, self-harm and suicide among transgender youth.

“Transgender people deserve the right to live healthy lives without fear and discrimination,” Dickson said.

A spokesperson for Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the office will ask the appeals court to review the ruling.

Rutledge is “extremely disappointed in today’s dangerously wrong decision by the three-judge panel,” the spokesperson said.

Andrew Bostad, center, talks with his mother, Brandi Evans and stepdad Jimmy Evans at their home in Bauxite, Ark., on Thursday, April 15, 2021.
The ban would prohibit doctors from providing gender-confirming hormones, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18.
AP/Andrew DeMillo

Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban. The state was followed by a dozen others, though Alabama’s law was blocked by an injunction in May, while an effort in Texas to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse under existing statutes has been partially blocked by two separate injunctions.

The Arkansas ruling comes days after a Texas school district banned the use of preferred pronouns, classroom discussions on sexual orientation, and transgender sports participation.

With Post wires

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