The House has voted 72-25 to override Governor Hutchinson’s veto of the bill to prohibit medical services for transgender minors.
The Senate soon followed, voting 25-8 to override, with 18 needed.
In the House, the override got two more votes than the bill received in initial House passage. The governor said he wasn’t surprised. “I stated my convictions yesterday,” he said at a news conference minutes later.
The lead Senate sponsor, Sen. Alan Clark, was absent today because of an illness in his family. In his absence, Sen. Scott Flippo asked for the override and made no argument other than the motion. That was enough. Sen. Clarke Tucker opposed the override. He invoked 1957 legislation for school segregation, passed overwhelmingly and much of it overturned in court. “Today we know those bills were wrong,” Tucker said. “The most powerful people in the state were bullying the most vulnerable people in the state then. And I just wonder, when are we going to stop doing that? If we only love those who love us, then what is our reward? When we see a stranger our job is to welcome them.”
The House acted first. Sponsor Rep. Robin Lundstrum moved for the House to override the governor’s veto immediately after the reading of his veto message. She disputed his veto message and said the bill was meant to protect children in Arkansas.
She credited a variety of right-wing organizations and Franklin Graham for supporting the bill. And she repeated all the things she’d said in passing the bill and dismissed opposition from medical groups. She continued to insist the bill does NOT deny health care. Doctors, however, have testified they could not provide referrals. The bill also would immediately end services currently being given.
Rep. Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock) thanked children, parents and doctors for speaking up in opposition. “I do not think these children need to be protected from their own parents.” She said following science and best practices meant providing life-saving care. “Search your own heart and think about these parents and their children and their doctors.”
UPDATE: The ACLU denounced the legislation and said it would sue.
Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, made this statement:
“Today Arkansas legislators disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth. As Governor Hutchinson noted in his veto message, denying care to trans youth can lead to harmful and life-threatening consequences. This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over — and we’re in it for the long haul. Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it’s also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court. We are hearing from concerned families all over the state who are afraid about the impact of this bill and others like it. We are committed to doing all we can to support these families and ensure they know how to continue to fight for their rights and get the care and resources they need.
“No matter what these politicians do or say, one thing has not changed: trans youth are loved, they are seen, and we will never stop fighting to defend their dignity, their rights and their lives. To everyone who spoke out against this bill: now is the time to stay loud, not only for trans lives, but for all the fundamental rights that politicians are hellbent on attacking.”
Chase Stangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, stated:
“The Arkansas Legislature has ignored dozens of local doctors and national medical experts, as well as trans youth and their parents. This bill will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state and send a terrible and heartbreaking message to the transgender young people who are watching in fear. Gender-affirming care is life-saving care and banning that care will have devastating and in some cases deadly consequences. Trans youth in Arkansas: We will continue to fight for you. The ACLU is preparing litigation as we speak. ACLU supporters from around the country spoke out against this bill. We will always have your back and will be relentless in our defense of your rights.”
From the Human Rights Campaign:
“Despite opposition from even their own anti-LGBTQ governor, Arkansas legislators have denied transgender children access to medically-necessary and age-appropriate health care,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “This is the first law of its kind anywhere in the country, and it is immeasurably cruel to the transgender children who already suffer from higher risks of anxiety, depression, body dysphoria, and suicidal ideation and for whom those risks will only increase without medical care. This broadly unpopular bill is anti-science and dismisses the medical expertise of a wide range of child welfare advocates. Arkansas legislators, against the will of Governor Hutchinson, are not only inviting irreparable harm to their state’s transgender youth, but also economic and reputational consequences to all Arkansans. The Human Rights Campaign condemns this action by the Arkansas legislature and will use every tool at our disposal to fight against this law and for the rights all transgender youth and their families.”
“This discriminatory bill, peddled by national anti-equality extremists is a cruel and shameful way for legislators to score political points by targeting transgender youth who are simply trying to navigate their adolescense,” said Arkansas State Manager Eric Reece. “Transgender youth deserve to be included and accepted, especially as we see an uptick in fatal violence against transgender people across the country. We need to end this epidemic and ensure that all transgender Arkansans have access to the life-saving, gender affirming medical care they need.”
I asked Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who frequently offers counsel on federal judicial issues, what he thought. Not wholly encouraging:
I think that the ACLU and perhaps others will challenge the statute in federal court and seek a TRO to enjoin the law from coming into effect. If plaintiffs persuade a district judge to grant relief, the state will appeal to the Eighth Circuit, which may reverse any district ruling in favor of plaintiffs. The Eighth Circuit is one of the most conservative appeals courts in the U.S., so plaintiffs may have difficulty persuading the court to overturn this law, even though the Governor raised valid arguments in defense of his veto.