LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday vetoed legislation that would have made his state the first to ban gender confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youth.
The Republican governor rejected legislation that would have prohibited doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.
“If (the bill) becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.
The Republican Legislature could still enact the measure, since it only takes a simple majority of the House and Senate to override a governor’s veto in Arkansas. Hutchinson said he believed an override was likely.
Hutchinson’s veto follow pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide. Hutchinson said he met with doctors and transgender people as he considered whether to sign the measure.
He said he would have signed the bill if it had just focused on gender confirming surgery, which currently isn’t performed on minors in the state. He noted it wouldn’t have exempted youth who are already undergoing treatment.
“The bill is over broad, extreme and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment,” he said “In other words, the young people who are currently under a doctor’s care will be without treatment when this law goes into effect.”
Sponsors of the measure did not say when they planned to seek an override or whether they had enough votes secured to enact the measure despite Hutchinson’s objection.
“These children need to be protected,” Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum told reporters.
Arkansas is one of a handful of states where it only takes a simple legislative majority to override a governor’s veto, and Hutchinson rejected the bill as lawmakers are pushing increasingly conservative measures.
The only attempt so far this year to override a veto by Hutchinson — over a bill he rejected that would have required the state to refund fines levied on businesses for violating coronavirus safety rules — failed last month.
The treatment ban was the latest measure targeting transgender people that easily advanced in the Arkansas Legislature and other states this year. Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee’s governors have signed laws banning transgender girls and women from competing on school sports teams consistent with the gender identity.
Hutchinson recently signed a measure allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections, a law that opponents have said could be used to turn away LGBTQ patients.