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Arkansas legislature overrides veto of transgender youth healthcare bill

Demonstrators protesting near the Supreme Court it heard oral arguments in three cases on LGBTQ discrimination protections in 2019, Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Demonstrators protesting near the Supreme Court it heard oral arguments in three cases on LGBTQ discrimination protections in 2019, Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 6 (UPI) -- The Arkansas legislature on Tuesday voted to override Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of a state law banning access to gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors.

The state Senate voted 25-8 and the House voted 72-25 to cancel the veto, with most Republicans in both chambers voting in favor and most Democrats voting against it.

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Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, expressed concern about the decision to override the veto, saying it represented the most powerful people bullying the most vulnerable while Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, moved for immediate consideration of the override motion to "protect children."

Jon Schweppe, director of policy and government affairs for the American Principles Project think tank, issued a statement praising the passage of the law as a "victory for biological sanity" and criticizing Hutchinson for the veto.

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"It is unfortunate that the law's passage had to come over the veto of Gov. Hutchinson. While the governor claimed he was acting out of a conservative concern for restraining government, restraint is not always a good thing," Schweppe said.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday said it was preparing a lawsuit to block the legislation from taking effect.

"This decision ignores dozens of local doctors, national medical experts, as well as trans youth and their parents," the ACLU wrote on Twitter. "Gender-affirming care is life-saving care. Banning it will have devastating -- and in some cases, deadly consequences."

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The legislation prohibits public funds from being granted to organizations or entities providing gender transition procedures to people younger than 18; bans state-owned facilities from providing transition-related care; and bars the state's Medicaid program from reimbursing or providing coverage of gender-affirming care to minors.

Doctors found in violation of the ban would face the possibility of having their licenses revoked.

In announcing the veto on Monday, Hutchinson said it would set "new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people," noting opposition from several major medical associations in the state.

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