On June 20, 2023, U.S. District Judge Jay M. Moody, who was nominated by President Obama in 2014, issued a permanent injunction against Act 626 of HB1570, an Arkansas law that prohibited gender-affirming care for queer youth under the age of 18, including care regarding “social changes.” This bill was passed on April 6, 2021 after the Arkansas General Assembly overrode Republican former Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto. By issuing an injunction, Judge Moody has prohibited Arkansas from enforcing this ban on transition-related healthcare for minors.
During this lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that the law prohibits transgender youth from receiving the medically recognized best standard of care and unfairly singles them out. In opposition, the State argued that this law fell within their duties of protecting children and maintaining ethical healthcare standards.
In his ruling, Judge Moody cited multiple reports from medical organizations that emphasize the importance of gender-affirming care and statistics about past treatment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Gender Clinic. Included in the rationale were the plaintiffs’ personal stories about their transition journeys, all of whom were minors receiving gender-affirming care in Arkansas. Moody also referenced statistics about the regret rate of transition as well as other information from the work of Dan Karasic, MD of the San Francisco Transgender Institute. He further stressed that the Arkansas State Board of Medicine, which regulates medical practice in the state, “is not aware of any minors in Arkansas who have been harmed by gender-affirming care” and “has never received a complaint regarding gender-affirming medical care for minors or adults.”
Additionally, he wrote that “the harms are severe and irreparable for adolescents with gender dysphoria who need but are unable to access gender-affirming medical care” and “the fact that transgender adults face elevated rates of physical and mental health issues due to stigma, discrimination, and having lived with gender dysphoria is not a reason to deny treatment to adolescents with gender dysphoria; if anything, it supports the need for access to treatment.” He also noted that “most of the State’s expert witnesses . . . were unqualified to offer relevant expert testimony and offered unreliable testimony.”
Moody concluded that this law “discriminates on the basis of sex because a minor’s sex at birth determines whether the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law,” which is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He also found that the State failed to sufficiently prove that this law was protecting children, which was their main defense.
A blanket ban on transgender care for minors was also deemed a violation of the Constitutional right to due process and the parents’ “fundamental right to seek medical care for their children.” The law was also found to violate physicians’ First Amendment right to free speech by forbidding them from referring patients to gender-affirming care providers.
This case is a major victory for the rights and autonomy of transgender youth. This ruling sides with the abundance of scientific evidence that supports the efficacy and safety of gender-affirming care in the case of minors. Rather than deciding based on overblown rumors and misleading studies, this case affirms what doctors have been telling us for years: gender affirming care works, and it saves lives.