LGBTQ Legal Issues

Ban on gender-affirming procedures for transgender youths is sex discrimination, 8th Circuit says

  • Print

trans flag and gavel

Image from Shutterstock.

A federal appeals court has upheld an injunction blocking Arkansas’ ban on “gender transition procedures” for youths younger than age 18.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis said in its Aug. 25 decision the ban on such medical procedures amounts to discrimination on the basis of sex. The preliminary injunction blocks enforcement of the Arkansas law pending a final ruling on the plaintiffs’ claim that the treatment ban violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The record in the case so far does not support the state’s claim that its law, known as Act 626, protects children from experimental medical treatment, the appeals court said in a unanimous panel decision by Judge Jane Kelly.

The 8th Circuit cited research on hormone treatment for adolescents with gender dysphoria that showed positive effects on mental health and quality of life. The appeals court also said there is substantial evidence that the Arkansas law bans medical treatment that conforms with the recognized standard of care.

Act 626 bans health care professionals from providing gender transition procedures to anyone younger than age 18 or from referring those youths to other health care professions for such treatment.

The law defined gender transition procedures to mean medical and surgical services intended to “alter or remove physical or anatomical characteristics or features that are typical for the individual’s biological sex” or to “instill or create physiological or anatomical characteristics that resemble a sex different from the individual’s biological sex.” The banned services include puberty-blocking drugs and gender-reassignment surgery.

The plaintiffs in the case are four transgender youths, their parents and two Arkansas doctors.

The Arkansas law was the first in the country to ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths, according to an Aug. 25 press release by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU and the ACLU of Arkansas filed the lawsuit. Law firms working on the case are Sullivan & Cromwell, Gill Ragon Owen and the Walas Law Firm.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in the press release the decision is a critical victory for transgender adolescents in Arkansas.

“The 8th Circuit was abundantly clear that the state’s ban on care does not advance any important governmental interest and the state’s defense of the law is lacking in legal or evidentiary support,” Strangio said.

The case is Brandt v. Rutledge. The ACLU has more information here.

Publications with coverage of the decision include Reuters, Law360 and the Washington Post. How Appealing also noted the decision.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.