ACLU files lawsuit to stop Arkansas from denying trans youth healthcare

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aclu arkansas suing

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth and their families as well as two doctors challenging an Arkansas law that prohibits health care professionals from providing or even referring transgender young people for medically necessary health care. The bill also bars any state funds or insurance coverage for gender-affirming health care for transgender people under 18, and it would allow private insurers to refuse coverage for gender-affirming care for people of any age. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that House Bill 1570 violates the U.S. Constitution.

The ACLU says today’s 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. Trans youth should not have to fight so hard to live.

The parents in our lawsuit are considering leaving the state to ensure their family has access to gender-affirming care.

The doctors in our lawsuit will no longer be able to provide life-saving care their patients rely upon.

“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, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “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.”

Health and Human Services Press Release: HHS Announces Prohibition on Sex Discrimination Includes Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The plaintiff families include Dylan Brandt and his mother, Joanna Brandt; Brooke Dennis and her parents, Amanda and Shayne Dennis; Sabrina Jennen and her parents, Lacey and Aaron Jennen; and Parker Saxton and his father, Donnie Saxton.

Dr. Michelle Hutchison and Dr. Kathryn Stambough are also challenging the law on behalf of themselves and their patients because it impairs their ability to treat their transgender patients with medically necessary health care or even refer them to other providers for treatment. Every major medical association supports treating transgender youth with gender-affirming medical care and opposed House Bill 1570 because it runs counter to science and medicine and will cause severe harm to transgender young people, their families, and all those who love them.

Plaintiffs Brooke Dennis, (Right) Amanda Dennis, and Shayne Dennis live in Bentonville, Arkansas. Amanda and Shayne are the parents of Brooke, who is 9. Brooke is transgender. Once she begins puberty, which could be at any time, Brooke’s parents, with the advice of her doctors, intend to have her begin receiving medical care that would be prohibited by the Health Care Ban.

Amanda and Shayne Dennis’ daughter, Brooke, who is 9 years old, is fearful about what will happen to her if she cannot get gender-affirming medical care when puberty begins.

“Our child has known exactly who she is since she was 2 years old,” said Amanda Dennis, Brooke’s mom. “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.”

The Dennis family may move out of the state if the health care ban takes effect. Uprooting their family from their community, schools, and jobs would not only be a hardship for Amanda, Shayne, and their children but also their extended family, as they are caring for aging parents.

“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 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.”

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