Arkansas becomes first state to outlaw gender-affirming treatment for trans youth

Rodiano Bonacci
Aprile 7, 2021

The Arkansas state legislature voted Tuesday to override a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on a bill that would ban gender-affirming treatments for transgender youths in the state. Transgender rights have become a new flashpoint for Republican lawmakers nationwide.

He said the bill "while well-intended, is off-course", calling it an example of "vast government overreach" that would create "legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people".

The bill makes what it calls an "exception" for some intersex people with unspecified chromosomal makeup and hormone production, and those with difficulties resulting from previous gender-affirming treatments.

The ACLU of Arkansas, which opposed the state's bill, had applauded Hutchinson's veto.

"Transgender youth have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and affirmed, not singled out and denied critical care that is backed by virtually every leading health authority", said a statement from the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, adding that "a person's gender identity shouldn't limit their ability to access health care or be treated with dignity and respect".

"We want to send a message of tolerance and diversity", he said.

The override, which needed only a simple majority, passed easily in both chambers, with the house voting 72-25 in favour and the senate 25-8.

"By overriding the veto on this legislation, Arkansas would put itself in the lead of a race to the bottom, fueled by fear and disinformation", he said during a press briefing Tuesday ahead of the vote.

Hutchinson's veto comes less than two weeks after he signed two other bills that restrict LGBT rights.

He also recently signed legislation that allows doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections.

The other bill bans transgender women and girls from participating in women's sports teams. Four states so far have passed the bans into law.

The SAFE Act is one of dozens of state bills introduced this year that LGTBQ advocates say diminish the rights of transgender Americans.

The wave of bans comes after President Biden reversed numerous Trump administration's LGBT restrictions, including a transgender military ban.

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