NWLC Co-Leads Eighth Circuit Amicus Brief Challenging Arkansas’ Gender-Affirming Health Care Ban
On January 19, 2022, the National Women’s Law Center, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., and 20 additional organizations committed to gender justice and LGBTQ rights submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Brandt v. Rutledge. We filed our brief in support of Dylan Brandt, Brooke Dennis, Sabrina Jennen, and Parker Saxton, transgender young people with gender dysphoria who the state of Arkansas has tried to bar from receiving gender-affirming health care, as well as their parents and two doctors.
For adolescents with gender dysphoria, gender-affirming care can dramatically reduce depression and suicidal thoughts; for some, it is life-saving health care. But in April 2021, over Governor Hutchinson’s veto, Arkansas’s state legislature passed HB 1570, prohibiting health care professionals in the state from providing gender-affirming care to anyone under eighteen or from referring anyone under eighteen to any health care professional for such care. For Dylan, Sabrina, and Parker, HB 1570 could force them to immediately stop receiving hormone therapies that have positively impacted their mental health. And Brooke, who is younger, could have to forgo puberty suppressing treatments.
To stop the law, Dylan, Sabrina, Parker, and Brooke, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued in May 2021. Two months later, the federal district court temporarily blocked the law from going into effect while the case is pending. The court was clear that the health care ban likely violated:
- transgender young peoples’ rights to be free from sex discrimination and discrimination based on transgender status under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution,
- their parents’ fundamental rights under the Due Process Clause, and
- doctors’ rights under the Free Speech Clause.
Arkansas officials immediately appealed the decision to the 8th Circuit.
Our Amicus Brief
Our brief urges the appeals court to affirm the district court’s decision to block Arkansas’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors from taking effect. We argue that the law discriminates on the basis of sex and transgender status, violates transgender young peoples’ rights to bodily autonomy, and violates their parents’ rights to protect their children’s health. We also counter harmful and erroneous arguments raised by supporters of this law, who claim that banning gender-affirming care is necessary to protect transgender adolescents—they’re wrong, it harms them—and that protecting transgender individuals from discrimination will somehow undermine women’s rights—they’re wrong, it bolsters protections for all women and girls.
Our Commitment to LGBTQ Rights
At NWLC, we have long defended the rights of all patients to access health care free from sex discrimination, including LGBTQ patients and patients seeking reproductive health care. While attacks continue to threaten access to reproductive health care and gender-affirming care across the country, we are committed to ensuring that health, not politics, drive important medical decisions. This amicus brief is part of NWLC’s work across our teams to ensure protections against sex discrimination for LGBTQ individuals.