Court won’t reconsider block of Arkansas trans care law

Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban, which has been widely criticized by medical groups.
Hundreds of people march along Block Avenue during the state’s first-ever trans march on June 24, 2021. (Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court said Wednesday it won’t reconsider its ruling temporarily blocking Arkansas from enforcing its ban on gender-affirming care for children.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s request for the full court to hear its appeal of the temporary order against Arkansas’ law. A three-judge panel of the court in August upheld a judge’s injunction against the ban.

A landmark trial over whether to strike down the ban began before the same judge last month and is set to resume Nov. 28.

Arkansas’ law would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old. It also would prevent doctors from referring patients elsewhere for such care.

Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban, which has been widely criticized by medical groups.

“Families across Arkansas are thankful the 8th Circuit has rejected the state’s effort to enforce this baseless and cruel law,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which is challenging the law on behalf of four transgender children and their families. “Arkansas should be a safe place to raise all children — transgender youth included — and denying them life-saving health care does the exact opposite.”

Republican lawmakers enacted the ban last year, overriding GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the legislation. Hutchinson, who had signed other restrictions on transgender youths into law, said the prohibition went too far by cutting off the care for those currently receiving it.

Wednesday’s decision indicated a sharply divided court, with three of the appeals court’s 11 judges voting to deny the state’s request and five supporting it. Two of the judges who did not participate were on the panel that ruled unanimously against the state in August.

The state has argued that the prohibition is within its authority to regulate the medical profession. People opposed to such treatments for children argue they are too young to make such decisions about their futures.

Multiple medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the bans and experts say the treatments are safe if properly administered.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office said its request was denied for procedural reasons and that Wednesday’s ruling invites the state to appeal again once the trial over Arkansas’ ban is completed.

“Arkansans can rest assured that Attorney General Rutledge will continue to wholeheartedly defend the (ban) because it protects children from these experimental life-altering procedures,” spokeswoman Amanda Priest said.

A similar ban has been blocked by a federal judge in Alabama.