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Arkansas federal judge strikes down transgender care law. What about Alabama’s?

The case reinforces the likelihood of Alabama loses its lawsuit over a similar law criminalizing the provision of gender-affirming care.

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A federal judge Tuesday permanently struck down an Arkansas law banning gender-affirming care.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. ruled that the state violated several sections of the U.S. Constitution by banning all gender-affirming care for minors. Arkansas was the first state in the country to pass such a law.

The ruling could be a glimpse of what to expect once a similar Alabama law reaches full trial. 

U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke, a Trump appointee, has already blocked the Alabama law for the time being until it reaches trial, and his reasoning closely matches parts of the ruling on the Arkansas law.

“The decision, issued after the Brandt court heard expert testimony from both sides, confirms what every court considering challenges to state laws banning health care for transgender minors has found to date: the care is essential, well-established medical treatment, and there is no valid justification for state laws prohibiting parents from obtaining this medical care needed for their transgender adolescents to thrive,” said Melody Egan, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the suit against Alabama’s law. 

During the eight-day trial on the Arkansas law, several of the state’s experts admitted they had no experience treating transgender teens.

While Alabama didn’t offer all of its experts in the injunction hearing last year, Burke has already found their witness James Cantor to be unreliable and has disregarded his testimony entirely.

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Cantor is a Canadian clinical psychologist specializing in hypersexuality who has appeared numerous times over the last five years as an expert witness on behalf of conservative entities challenging gender-affirming medical care.

He was first hired by the conservative law firm Alliance Defending Freedom in 2018 on a case to ban trans girls from girls’ school sports in West Virginia.

In striking down the Arkansas law, the judge found that medical care for transgender youth is helpful, not harmful.

“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting it, the State undermined the interests it claims to be advancing,” the ruling reads. “The testimony of well-credentialed experts, doctors who provide gender-affirming medical care in Arkansas, and families that rely on that care directly refutes any claim by the State that the Act advances an interest in protecting children.”

Burke similarly enjoined Alabama’s law under the context that transgender minors would suffer if cut off from gender-affirming care.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is still considering an appeal of the injunction. The case is tentatively scheduled to go to full trial on April 2, 2024.

A previous version of this article stated in error that the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in the appeal of the injunction. The court has not yet ruled on the appeal.

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Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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