Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has vetoed legislation that would have made his state the first to prohibit transgender children from receiving gender-confirming therapies or surgery, though lawmakers may override his veto.
The Republican governor vetoed legislation that would have made it illegal for physicians to provide gender-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or surgery to someone under the age of 18, or to refer them to other providers for treatment.
It comes as advocates claim that many US states have enacted legislation restricting transgender people’s rights, with the majority of them concentrating on their ability to participate in school sports that are compatible with their gender identity.
“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.
Since it only takes a simple majority of the House and Senate to override a governor’s veto in Arkansas, the Republican legislature could still pass the bill. According to Hutchinson, an override is possible.
Hutchinson’s veto comes after paediatricians, social workers, and parents of transgender children expressed concern that the bill would damage a group already vulnerable to depression and suicide. As he weighed whether or not to sign the bill, Hutchinson said he spoke with doctors and transgender people.
He said he would have signed it if it had only concentrated on gender-confirming surgery, which is currently prohibited in the state for minors. He pointed out that the bill would have put an end to medical services for young people who were already receiving medication.
“The bill is overbroad, 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.”
Despite Hutchinson’s objections, the measure’s sponsors did not state when they intended to attempt an override or whether they had enough votes to pass it.
“These children need to be protected,” Republican Representative Robin Lundstrum told reporters.
Hutchinson expressed his desire that lawmakers would take a “more measured approach.”
The ban was pushed through the legislature by conservative groups.
“The Arkansas legislature needs to step up and override the governor’s veto to make sure this good bill becomes law,” Family Council President Jerry Cox said.
Arkansas is one of only a few states in the United States where a simple legislative majority is enough to override a governor’s veto. The only veto override attempt this year failed last month, and it was on a bill Hutchinson opposed that would have allowed the state to refund penalties imposed on companies for violating coronavirus protection laws.