The first bill passed to ban evidence-based health care for transgender youth is now the first to be fully struck down in court.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Moody, Jr., struck down an Arkansas law that would have prohibited doctors from providing affirming care to transgender youth, or from referring people to any other health care provider, a violation of due process and equal protection rights of transgender youth and families, and a violation of the First Amendment free speech rights of medical providers.
BREAKING: A federal judge struck down Arkansas' first-in-the-nation ban on gender-affirming care for children as unconstitutional, the first ruling to overturn such a prohibition as a growing number of Republican-led states adopt similar restrictions. https://t.co/FGhzx2KHWM
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 20, 2023
Every major medical association supports health care for transgender people and youth as safe and lifesaving. GLAAD has compiled statements from more than 30 professional organizations supporting the care and against discriminatory, baseless legislation limiting it. [Read excerpts here.]
“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics,” Judge Moody wrote, “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 protecting.”
“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,” said Dylan Brandt, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Arkansas, in a statement released by the ACLU of Arkansas.
The first state law banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors has become the first one struck down in court. https://t.co/yXPNEKKlji
— The Advocate (@TheAdvocateMag) June 20, 2023
“My mom and I wanted to fight this law not just to protect my health care, but also to ensure that transgender people like me can safely and fully live our truths. Transgender kids across the country are having their own futures threatened by laws like this one, and it’s up to all of us to speak out, fight back, and give them hope.”
Read this profile of the four families who spoke out about living in a state that targets them and their evidence-based essential health care.
Arkansas passed the bill in 2021 over the veto of then-Governor Asa Hutchinson, who said the bill represented a “vast government overreach.”
“Baseless legislation does not stand a chance against facts and loving families following best practice, evidence-based healthcare that’s supported by every major medical association,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said.
“The judge’s ruling is a victory for transgender people, families and their health care providers, and should send a clear signal to lawmakers and other states: Listen to trans youth. Follow the science and medical consensus. Protect trans people and their right to live and thrive.”
Judge Moody wrote that the state of Arkansas failed to provide evidence of its assertions, and that its witnesses lacked credentials and qualifications.
The state’s witnesses include men whose testimony has been discredited in previous proceedings as they make the rounds in other states urging discriminatory legislation against evidence-based care and LGBTQ people. Judge Moody noted (as reported by Chris Geidner and his Lawdork newsletter):
- “The Court does not credit the testimony of Professor [Mark] Regnerus and gives it no weight because the Court finds that he lacks the qualifications to offer his opinions and failed to support them.”
- “Dr. [Patrick] Lappert does not meet the requirements under Daubert to give opinions relevant to this case.”
- “Dr. [Paul] Hruz has never treated a patient for gender dysphoria.”
Yesterday afternoon, we got a ruling out of Arkansas. The first final judgment in a case challenging a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. The federal judge hearing the case struck down the ban "on all claims." Read about it at Law Dork: https://t.co/TCLrHxmWq9
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) June 21, 2023
Regnerus’ testimony in 2022, “was meandering, repetitive and often confusing as U.S. District Judge James M. Moody, Jr., struggled at times to understand the relevance of his testimony to the matter at hand,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
GLAAD has documented Regnerus’ extensive history of advocating against LGBTQ people and families, including false claims in a study of children with LGBTQ parents that progressives and conservatives both called bogus, and a non-peer-reviewed study about marriage equality, whose wild claims have never been proven, and whose survey sampling was never provided by Regnerus. Regnerus also had his testimony excluded from legal proceedings against marriage equality in Michigan.
GLAAD has also documented the anti-LGBTQ advocacy of Patrick Lappert, a plastic surgeon. Lappert was paid nearly $35,000 by Florida’s agency for Health Care Administration, part of a $1.3 million tab the state ran up trying to ban Medicaid coverage of treatments for transgender people. A district judge there ruled against that state’s ban on evidence-based healthcare for transgender people earlier this month, noting the ban was unconstitutional and would cause “irreparable harm” to transgender youth.
Lappert is on the board of “Courage International,” an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center reported supports so-called therapies encouraging LGBTQ people to abstain from sex. Lappert also reportedly has ties to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), described as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which also notes ADF’s efforts against abortion access, whose former CEO, Michael Farris, fought equal rights for women, and coordinated efforts to discredit the 2020 presidential election. ADF’s advocacy against transgender people includes fighting to the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize discrimination at work, and efforts by current CEO, Kristen Waggoner, to orchestrate false claims from her daughter against a rival softball player to push a ban on transgender students playing sports (the player had short hair, but was not trans).
Lappert also has had his testimony excluded from legal proceedings in June 2022 in North Carolina. The judge there noted Lappert “is not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health professional, nor has he ever diagnosed a patient with gender dysphoria. He is not an endocrinologist, nor has he ever treated a patient with hormone therapies; Lappert is also not qualified to opine on the efficacy of randomized clinical trials, cohort studies, or other longitudinal, epidemiological, or statistical studies of gender dysphoria.”
Paul Hruz is a pediatric endocrinologist who acknowledged in court in Arkansas that he has never treated a patient for gender dysphoria, diagnosed a patient with it, or published any peer-reviewed literature on gender dysphoria or transgender youth.
In another case, Adams v. School Board of St. John’s County, plaintiffs alleged that a parent of a transgender teen raised concerns about suicide risk, leading Hruz to say, “Some children are born in this world to suffer and die.”
In the same North Carolina case that excluded Lappert’s testimony, the judge noted: “Hruz is not qualified to offer expert opinions on the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the DSM, gender dysphoria’s potential causes, the likelihood that a patient will ‘desist,’ or the efficacy of mental health treatments; He has never diagnosed a patient with gender dysphoria, treated gender dysphoria, treated a transgender patient, conducted any original research about gender dysphoria diagnosis or its causes, or published any scientific, peer-reviewed literature on gender dysphoria.”
The judge ruled Hruz’s references to a “Gender Transition Industry” were inadmissible and that “his conspiratorial intimations and outright accusations sound in political hyperbole and pose a clear risk of inflaming the jury and prejudicing Plaintiff.”
Deposition documents from the North Carolina case also show Hruz associated with Alliance Defending Freedom: Q: Did you attend a meeting at the Alliance Defending Freedom offices in Arizona in 2017? Hruz: I don’t recall the exact date, but I did travel to Arizona to meet with other individuals that also had unique areas of expertise in the area, yes.”
ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio responded to the judge’s decision: “This is a huge victory for trans youth, their parents and doctors, not only in Arkansas, but across the country. The court unequivocally rejected the arguments from the state defending the law. We know how scary and stressful these times have been as dozens of states have tried to push laws similar to Arkansas’. But we are not going to stop fighting until we have blocked every single one of them.”
Today is the first time a federal court has ruled that gender-affirming care bans are unconstitutional.
To trans kids everywhere — we see you, and we won't stop fighting alongside you. pic.twitter.com/9jYl2Sa9Wl
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 21, 2023
Arkansas’ case was examined on The Problem with Jon Stewart in October (watch free here).
“Wow. That’s an incredibly made-up figure,” Stewart told Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge after she cited false data and struggled to respond to questions about her work to ban gender-affirming care for youth.
— GLAAD (@glaad) October 7, 2022
In the episode, Stewart cited facts about gender-affirming care, including how in the five years preceding the ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth, there were no cases of Arkansas youth having received transition-related surgeries. These types of medical interventions simply do not happen with children.
Mainstream medical organizations have developed guidelines through peer-reviewed data and studies and by implementing those guidelines they have improved mental health outcomes.
Stewart noted, including in a panel with parents of transgender children and doctors who treat them, that successful care involves a young person, along with their family and caregivers, and their mental health providers and their physician, determining what the best course of treatment is.
Stewart and his team won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Variety or Talk Show for the episode.