Arkansas governor urges Republicans to send a “message of compassion” to trans people

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks to Team Little Rock members during a quarterly community council meeting at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 13, 2019.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas in 2019. Photo: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

After being attacked by former President Donald Trump (R), and others, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is calling on his fellow Republicans to show “compassion” towards trans people and their loved ones after a wave of anti-trans legislation has swept the country.

“It is compassionate to say we care for all our young people – whether they’re trans youth or otherwise – we care for them, and that’s the message of compassion and conservatism that we need to have as a party,” Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Related: Another anti-trans bill in Arkansas allows people that share bathrooms with trans people to sue

“It’s a conservative position to say that’s not the role of government… it is compassionate to say we care for all our young people – whether they’re trans youth or otherwise – we care for them, and that’s the message of compassion and conservatism that we need to have as a party,” he stated.

Hutchinson became the latest target of the religious right and other conservatives for not being anti-trans enough, and former President Trump led the way by insulting his former ally.

In his statement, Trump misrepresented gender-affirming care for trans and gender non-conforming youth as the “castration of children.” He called Hutchinson “the lightweight RINO Governor of Arkansas,” and then said, “fortunately for the Great State of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders will do a fantastic job as your next Governor.”

Tapper asked Hutchinson, “what do you make of the blowback you’ve received from the Republican Party?”

“Anytime you go against the grain, you’re going to get that kind of blowback,” he replied.

He said that he finds “the debate” over “the important issue” of trans rights to be healthy for the party, but added, “are we going to be a narrow party that expresses ourselves in intolerant ways, or are we going to be a broad-based party that shows conservative principles, but also, compassion in dealing with some of the most difficult issues that parents face, that individuals face.”

“At some point, I have to say, I’ve got to remind my wonderful Republican colleagues that we are the party of Ronald Reagan, that believes in a limited role of government.

“I know there’s a role for government, even in social issues, but we need to ask ourselves — do we need to do this? Is there a better way? Is this something that we need to leave in the hands of [those at] home, or in the church, [for] our faith leaders to handle? Is this calling out for a government solution?”

“We’re fighting that in Washington. Let’s fight it also in state capitols and the principles of our party,” Hutchinson stated.

Hutchinson previously signed into law the so-called “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, which allows for medical workers to reject serving people under the guise of their religious beliefs, and a bill called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” that bans trans girls and women from participating in school-organized sports “from kindergarten all the way through collegiate sports.”

But he vetoed the so-called “Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” anti-trans legislation that outlaws any gender-affirming care to trans youth in the state. He said this act was “an example of where restraint is better than overbroad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society.”

The Arkansas General Assembly wasted no time overriding his veto and has now proposed even more anti-trans legislation, such as a proposal being considered before a committee in the Arkansas House that would give a person the right to sue if they encounter someone in a restroom that was assigned a different sex at birth than them.

Tapper pointed out to Hutchinson that he already signed at least two anti-trans laws that passed through the General Assembly, and they show no signs of stopping. He added that there are “no actual cases of trans kids in Arkansas causing any sort of problems on the athletic field.”

“Is this is not an actual problem in Arkansas… then what is the end result to this, other than demonizing a bunch of already vulnerable kids?” Tapper asked.

Hutchinson replied that “any time you are passing laws to address a problem that doesn’t currently exist… you have a potential of getting it wrong.” However, he still finds banning trans girls and women from sports will allow female sports to “prosper” in the state that had “a broad level of support.”

But the bill banning healthcare was “too much,” he believed.

“These are tough areas… we can debate them on conservative principles, but let’s show compassion and tolerance and understanding, as we do that. That’s the simple message that I think is important to our party.”

“It’s more than about trans youth, because other people care,” he added. “I want to be broader, and not narrower.”

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