Arkansas’ law banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors, the first state law of its kind in the nation, was struck down by a federal judge Tuesday.
The case had been watched closely as a crucial test of whether such bans, enacted by lawmakers in 19 Republican-led states, could survive legal challenges.
The Arkansas law would have outlawed doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers, or surgery to anyone under 18.
U.S. District Judge James “Jay” Moody issued a permanent injunction against the Arkansas law, which Moody temporarily blocked in 2021.
The law also would have prohibited doctors from referring patients elsewhere for similar care.
“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting it, the state undermined the interests it claims to be advancing,” Moody wrote in an 80-page opinion.
It’s unclear if Arkansas officials will appeal the ruling.
The ACLU challenged the law on behalf of four transgender youth and their families and two doctors.
Moody also ruled that the ban violated the due process and equal protection rights of transgender youth and families.
The law also violated the First Amendment rights of medical providers by prohibiting them from referring minor patients elsewhere for care, Moody said.
“The State has failed to prove that its interests in the safety of Arkansas adolescents from gender transitioning procedures or the medical community’s ethical decline are compelling, genuine, or even rational,” Moody said in his ruling.
At least 19 other states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors following Arkansas’ law, and nearly all of them have been challenged in court.
Major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the bans and experts say treatments are safe if properly administered.
Moody’s ruling echoed remarks that judges have made in other decisions temporarily blocking similar bans in Alabama and Indiana, the Associated Press said.
Moody included testimony from one of the transgender youths challenging the state’s ban. Dylan Brandt, 17, testified in October that the hormone therapy he has received transformed his life and the ban would force him to leave the state.
“I’m so grateful the judge heard my experience of how this health care has changed my life for the better and saw the dangerous impact this law could have on my life and that of countless other transgender people,” Brandt said in an ACLU press release.
Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said the decision sends a clear message.
“Fear-mongering and misinformation about this health care do not hold up to scrutiny; it hurts trans youth and must end,” she said. “Science, medicine, and law are clear: gender-affirming care is necessary to ensure these young Arkansans can thrive and be healthy.”