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Attorneys File Amicus Brief Opposing Arkansas Act Banning Gender-Affirming Healthcare

News - Inclusiveness and Diversity | July 1, 2021


Little Rock litigators Jess Askew III and Andrew King filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas Central Division on behalf of 19 professional medical, mental health, and educational organizations seeking to ensure all children and adolescents—including transgender youth—receive the standard of care prescribed by the majority of healthcare professionals, especially those with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Passed in April 2021 over the veto of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Act 626 is the first bill passed in the United States to outlaw any gender-affirming medical treatment to minors. It has been criticized locally and nationally, with such groups as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry opposing.

Kutak Rock healthcare partner Alexander Justiss was initially approached by the American Medical Society and AAP concerning the brief. He alerted litigators Jess Askew and Andrew King, who immediately agreed to take the case pro bono. Law firm Covington and Burling drafted the brief; Mr. Askew and Mr. King provided comments and then filed it in Arkansas.

Mr. King says he didn’t hesitate to take the case. “If you read the plaintiffs’ complaint, their motion for preliminary injunction, and the declarations that were submitted, you realize this affects real people. The plaintiffs are children,” he said. “One of the declarations is signed by a nine-year-old child who is having to sue the state of Arkansas to get medical treatment. That’s just wrong.”

Mr. King added that an amicus brief like this can have a real impact. “The state has to show that this law was passed for a purpose other than discriminating against a small group of people. It’s harder for them to make that showing when physicians and scientists—who know what they’re doing—say, ‘no, this is the standard of care.’”

He also noted that every court decision is a precedent and has persuasive value to other courts within the district, circuit, and the nation should it get to that point.

Mr. Askew noted that, although Act 626 is targeted at youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the potential impact is much broader. “We need to make Arkansas a place where people want to be,” he said. “You’ve got to remind people that they’re going to be held accountable. We have to stand up and push back and let them know that people of goodwill, tolerance, and reason are watching and will push back. You have to stand up for people’s rights.”