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Arkansas governor announces he’ll veto bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth

Arkansas governor announces he’ll veto bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs a reworked religious freedom bill into law after it passed in the House at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, April 2, 2015. Photo: Brian Chilson, AP

In an unexpected turn of event, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced that he will veto H.B. 1570, considered “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.”

“Government under a conservative philosophy should be restrained,” he said at a live-streamed press conference today. “This is an example of where restraint is better than overbroad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society.”

Related: Mike Huckabee cruelly mocks Asian & transgender people

While several anti-trans proposals have passed into law across state legislatures this year, including in Arkansas, this was the first proposal of its kind to pass both chambers and make it to a governor’s desk.

Given that Hutchinson had already signed two anti-trans bills into law in just the last several weeks, many presumed that he would sign this bill as well.

After the bill passed the Arkansas Senate on March 29 and was sent to his office on March 30, he had until today to veto it, sign it or send it back to the legislature.

A massive online and in-state campaign was undertook to convince him to veto the bill, and it appears to have worked.

H.B. 1570, the so-called “Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” would have banned gender-affirming care of any kind from being given or even offered for consideration to trans youth.

Organizations or facilities providing gender-affirming care would have lost state funding, state-operated health insurance would no longer covered such care, and doctors that continued to provide such care would have risked losing their license.

That included surgery (which trans youth rarely undergo before the age of 18), hormone therapy, and reversible puberty blockers.

On March 25, Hutchinson signed legislation that made Arkansas the second state this year to ban trans youth from participating in sports as their gender. It applies to trans girls and women from kindergarten all the way through collegiate sports.

Later, Hutchinson announced that he signed the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act” on the same day, which expanded religious exemptions for health care workers, allowing doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other workers to refuse care for people if they cite their “religious, moral or ethical” beliefs. This could lead to health care workers refusing to treat LGBTQ people.

Despite his veto, H.B. 1570 still has a path to becoming law. The state House of Representatives and the Senate “may override the Governor’s veto with a simple majority vote of both chambers,” the House’s website reports.

Both chambers have a Republican supermajority, meaning they have more than two-thirds of members in each chamber caucusing with their party. There are 27 GOP members out of 35 in the state senate, and 76 GOP members out of 100.

In the Senate, all Republicans in the chamber and one Democrat, Sen. Larry Teague (D), voted in favor of H.B. 1570. All other Democrat and Independent members voted against the bill.

They have until the end of the legislative session to take action to overturn the veto, if they choose to — and today is the last scheduled day that both the House and Senate convene in Little Rock, as each chamber comes close to the end of the session.

Each session lasts for 60 days, unless they vote to enact a special session or the Governor calls one.

 

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