LGBTQ and Women’s Rights Organizations Urge Eighth Circuit to Affirm District Court Ruling Blocking Arkansas’s Trans Health Care Ban

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January 19, 2022

Today, Lambda Legal and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth District to affirm a U.S. District Court ruling blocking implementation of Arkansas’s trans health care ban. The ban was passed over Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto in April 2021. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit – Brandt v. Rutledge – in May to block implementation of the plan, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas ruled in the ACLU’s favor shortly before the law was to take effect. Arkansas has since appealed that ruling to the Eighth Circuit.

“Arkansas’s trans health care ban is as dangerous as it is unlawful. It targets for discrimination one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in our society, transgender youth, and it unconstitutionally interferes with the ability of the families of transgender adolescents suffering from gender dysphoria to obtain the medically necessary and often lifesaving care they may need.  In our brief, we argue that the District Court quite properly subjected the ban to heightened and strict scrutiny, as is required under the Fourteenth Amendment, and quite justifiably enjoined its implementation,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney and Health Care Strategist, Lambda Legal. “We hope that the Eighth Circuit applies the same doctrinal analysis and upholds the decision by the district court. Nothing less than lives are at stake.”  

"Arkansas's decision to ban gender-affirming health care for minors is discriminatory and unjustifiably harmful. Health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions," said Alison Tanner, Senior Litigation Counsel, NWLC

On April 6, 2021, the Arkansas Legislature passed House Bill 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation law or more properly the Trans Health Care Ban, over the governor’s veto. The Health Care Ban prohibits a physician or any other healthcare provider from providing or referring any individual under the age of 18 for “gender transition procedures.” The Health Care Ban defines “gender transition procedures” as “the process in which a person goes from identifying with and living as a gender that corresponds to his or her biological sex to identifying with and living as a gender different from his or her biological sex, and may involve social, legal, or physical changes.”

The ACLU sued to block implementation of the ban in May, representing four transgender Arkansas youth and their families, and two Arkansas physicians. The Motion for a Preliminary Injunction was granted in July, shortly before the ban was to go into effect. The State of Arkansas then appealed that ruling to the Eighth Circuit in August. 

Eighteen national, regional, and state-based LGBTQ and women’s rights organizations have joined Lambda Legal’s and NWLC’s amicus brief. Read the brief here:

Authors of the brief are: Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Karen L. Loewy, and Nicholas “Guilly” Guillory of Lambda Legal, and Gretchen Borchelt, Sunu Chandy, Dorianne Mason, and Alison Tanner of the National Women’s Law Center.