Arkansas Asks Appeals Court to Revive Gender Transition Ban for Minors

By Brendan Pierson

June 16, 2022

(Reuters) - Arkansas on Wednesday urged a federal appeals court to revive the state's first-of-its-kind law prohibiting doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormones and surgery as part of gender transition treatment for minors.

Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs told a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri that "medical uncertainty" around gender transition justified the ban.

He said a federal judge in Little Rock, Arkansas had ignored hundreds of pages of expert opinion when he issued a preliminary order blocking the law from going into effect last year.

Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought a challenge to the law, told the panel that allowing it to go into effect posed a "risk of serious and irreparable harm" to patients currently receiving gender transition treatment. He said there was no reason to disturb the lower court's order, which simply preserved the status quo until a final ruling following a trial scheduled in October.

The panel appeared skeptical of the law. Circuit Judge James Loken questioned whether the state could interfere in care provided by a doctor to a patient that the patient wanted.

"It strikes me as remarkable that the government could rationally do that," he said.

Jacobs responded that Arkansas acted with "caution" in regulating medical treatment, to which Loken responded: "There's not too much caution in this act."

Loken also questioned whether U.S. District Judge James Moody's preliminary ruling was too broad, suggesting he could have issued a narrower ruling to protect the plaintiffs without striking down the entire law statewide.

Arkansas was the first state to ban certain gender-transition treatments to minors in April 2021, with state lawmakers overriding a veto by Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson to pass the measure. Arizona, Alabama and Texas have since passed similar measures.