Arkansas fights transgender rights
(Jugoslav Drobnjak/Shutterstock)

Arkansas Lawmakers Pass One of the Most Biased — and Anti-Trans — Laws Ever in U.S. History

March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility. Meanwhile, in a blatant show of hatred and disregard for transgender rights and freedoms, lawmakers in Arkansas have passed what the ACLU has described as the “single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.”

Jo Yurcaba of NBC News has reported that the Arkansas Senate passed a bill Monday, Mar. 29, that would “ban access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors, including reversible puberty blockers and hormones.”

“The bill now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican,” Yurcaba said. “Unless he vetoes it, Arkansas will become the first state to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth.”

According to Yurcaba, “the bill is one of two types of legislation [currently] being considered in more than two dozen states: measures that ban or restrict access to gender-affirming care for trans minors, and those that ban trans young people from competing in school sports teams of their gender identity.”

“Governors in three states — Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee — have signed trans athlete bans into law,” Yurcaba reported. “In addition to Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee are also advancing restrictions on gender-affirming care. Alabama’s Senate approved a bill that would make it a felony to provide care such as puberty blockers or hormones for trans minors, and a Tennessee House Committee also just advanced a similar measure that includes misdemeanor criminal penalties.”

The Alabama medical bill bans care for trans people up to 19 years old that includes felony penalties for physicians who act against it. The Tennessee bill would also make it a misdemeanor for doctors to provide gender-affirming care to children who have yet to reach puberty. It would also require trans youth who have reached puberty to have at least two physicians and one child psychiatrist sign off on their treatment.

In an interview with Yurcaba, Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, was dismayed at the ongoing hate present in many state legislatures across the country, and the policies being created to roll back the rights and freedoms of transgender individuals.

“I really worry about the fact that we’re just a few votes away from some of the most sweeping and damaging and potentially genocidal laws from ever being passed, and we barely have a mention of it in the bigger national conversation of what’s going on in this particular moment in U.S. history,” Strangio said. “I don’t think I ever imagined a world where we would start ripping health care away from people, essentially forcing them to de-transition by government coercion.”

While state legislatures continue to churn through and approve these anti-trans measures, Strangio has said the ACLU plans to sue in each case to try and protect trans individuals’ rights.

The White House also remains an active advocate for trans rights as well. President Joe Biden has repeatedly reaffirmed his stance that “trans rights are human rights.” And in a recent panel, Reggie Greer, senior White House advisor on LGBTQ issues, said, “Any attempt to discriminate against trans kids or trans people is actually against the law and against nondiscrimination laws already on the books.” 

To that end, Greer has vowed to be an active part of defending those rights and fighting back against anti-trans legislation any state may enact.

However, pushback from corporations appears to be a powerful weapon in defending trans rights. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a staunch conservative and supporter of laws limiting trans rights, was recently forced to backtrack on her support of a bill that would have barred transgender girls and women from playing sports just days after she celebrated its passage. The reason? NCAA’s pushback of the law and fear that the association would pull its support of college sports out of the state, hurting South Dakota financially. 

“The NCAA is a private association. That means they can do what they want to do,” Noem said. “Even though I fundamentally disagree with them when it comes to this issue, if South Dakota passes a law that’s against their policy, they will likely take punitive action against us.” 

Caving into fear of backlash from the group, Noem reluctantly vetoed the bill. 

What Hutchinson will do when the newly passed Arkansas bill hits his desk — and what lawmakers from states like Tennessee and Alabama will do should the NCAA and other groups supporting trans rights continue to flex their muscle — remains to be seen.

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.


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