Courts Health LGBTQ Sports

Anti-Trans Laws in Arkansas and West Virginia Blocked by Federal Judges

On Wednesday, federal judges blocked two anti-trans state laws from going into effect. The first, an Arkansas law, would prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth. The second, a West Virginia law, banned transgender girls and women from playing in women’s public-school sports.

The Arkansas law would ban doctors from offering necessary gender-confirming treatment to trans youth under 18 years old. The prohibited treatments include hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and gender confirmation surgery. Arkansas is the first state to enact such a law.

U.S. District Court Judge Jay Moody placed a preliminary injunction on the law, preventing it from going into effect when scheduled on July 28. The injunction temporarily ensures that the law will not be enforced until Judge Moody makes a final ruling on the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in May.

“To pull care midstream from these patients, or minors, would cause irreparable harm,” said Judge Moody.

The ban had originally been vetoed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. The Arkansas state legislature, however, overrode Gov. Hutchinson’s veto.

Hutchinson argued that “the act was too extreme and did not provide any relief for those young people currently undergoing hormone treatments with the consent of their parents and under the care of a physician.”

“This ruling sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is life-saving care, and we won’t let politicians in Arkansas—or anywhere else—take it away,” said the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, Holly Dickson. “Today’s victory is a testament to the trans youth of Arkansas and their allies, who never gave up the fight to protect access to gender-affirming care and who will continue to defend the right of all trans people to be their authentic selves, free from discrimination. We won’t rest until this cruel and unconstitutional law is struck down for good.”

The West Virginia law, also temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Wednesday, bans trans athletes from participating in women’s public middle school, high school, and college sports.

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the state to challenge the ban on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson, an 11-year-old transgender girl who wanted to try out for her middle-school cross country team.

The sports ban had already gone into effect this month. The preliminary injunction, issued by U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, prevents West Virginia from continuing to enforce the law.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Pepper-Jackson. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

“Becky—like all students—should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project.

“We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.”

Sources: CBS News 7/21/21; NPR 7/21/21; CNN 7/21/21; ACLU 7/21/21; CNN 7/21/21; ACLU 7/21/21; ACLU 7/21/21

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