ACLU sues Arkansas over anti-Trans law

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Joanna and Dylan Brandts
Joanna and Dylan Brandts

The ACLU has sued the state of Arkansas on behalf of four Transgender youth and their families, and two doctors.

The suit, filed May 25, centers on an Arkansas law barring health care professionals from providing gender-affirming treatments for minors — or even referring minors for treatment.

The law also prevents any state funds or insurance coverage from being used for gender- affirming health care for minors, and it would allow private insurers to refuse coverage for gender- affirming care for people of any age.

The plaintiffs charge that the law violates the US Constitution.

The ACLU said Arkansas lawsuit is the first of many legal challenges in response to a record- setting year of legislative attacks on Transgender people, particularly Transgender youth, across the country.

"This law would be devastating to trans youth and their families, forcing many to uproot their lives and leave the state to access the gender-affirming care they need," said Holly Dickson, the executive director or the ACLU of Arkansas.

"Gender-affirming care is life-saving care for our clients, and they're terrified of what will happen if this law is allowed to take effect. No child should be cut off from the medical care they need or denied their fundamental right to be themselves — but this law would do both. We're suing to stop this cruel and unconstitutional law from taking effect and inflicting further harm on these children and their families."

"Our child has known exactly who she is since she was two years old," said Amanda Dennis, the mother of one of the plaintiffs.

"She was a happy child and felt comfortable expressing herself, but when she began to feel pressure at school to pretend she is a boy, she began to really struggle. It was painful to watch our child in distress. Last year, when she told us she is a girl and would like to be called 'Brooke' and referred to using 'she' and 'her' pronouns, we supported her immediately, and the cloud of sadness lifted and her smile came back."

She added, "We have told all of our children that we will always protect them, but this law stands in the way of our child getting the medical care she will desperately need."

"This is who I am, and it's frustrating to know that a place I've lived all my life is treating me like they don't want me here," said Dylan Brandt, a 15-year-old plaintiff who lives with his mother, Joanna Brandt.

"Having access to care means I'm able to be myself and be healthier and more confident, physically and mentally. The thought of having that wrenched away and going back to how I was before is devastating."

Thirty-five states have considered anti-Trans legislation in 2021. Arkansas is the only state to pass legislation banning health care for Trans youth, though several other bills were introduced.

"These attacks against trans youth in Arkansas and in states around the country will not go unchallenged — not while they are debated in legislatures, not after they pass, not when they are discussed in public conversation," said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Transgender justice with the ACLU's LGBTQ & HIV Project.

"The ACLU and our partners will be filing several lawsuits over the course of the next few months to make it clear that there is a robust movement of trans people and allies fighting for trans justice. Trans young people should not have to fight so hard to live. Even with supportive families, these bills have devastating consequences. Our work will not be done until every law that targets transgender people is struck down as unconstitutional and all transgender people are able to live without fearing discrimination and violence because of who we are. To all the transgender people who are fighting each day, please know that you are not alone and that we will continue to build movements for justice that center your needs, your experiences, and your beauty."