In a media appearance Monday, Hutchinson said concern about government overreach influenced his decision.
“House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and health care experts,” he said. “While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue.
“This would be, and is, a vast government overreach,” he added.
The bill would have prohibited doctors from providing minors with treatments including puberty blockers, hormone therapies or any other transition procedures. Physicians who nonetheless did so could have seen their medical licenses revoked.
Despite the governor’s action, the bill isn’t totally dead yet: Legislators could override the veto with a simple majority vote of both chambers. The Arkansas Senate voted 28-7 last week in favor of the bill, which was called the Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation, or SAFE, Act.
Hutchinson characterized the lawmakers’ efforts as “well-intended” yet nevertheless “off-course,” and he expressed concerns about how the bill would harm the mental health of transgender youth, perhaps leading to an increase in suicide, social isolation and drug abuse.
He added that while the number of people who would be affected is “an extreme minority,” they nevertheless “deserve the guiding hand of their parents and of the health care professionals that their family has chosen.”
The medical treatments that HB 1570 would have banned are reversible, as The Washington Post noted. And U.S. medical guidelines state that more permanent actions, such as gender-affirming surgeries, shouldn’t typically be performed until a patient is at least 18 years old.
HB 1570 is one of several anti-transgender bills that Republicans are pushing in at least 17 statehouses around the country. In addition to targeting access to medical care, legislation that limits transgender kids’ participation in sports that align with their gender identity has also become common.
Last week, Hutchinson signed a separate bill into law with precisely that purpose.
“An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions,” Gorsuch wrote. “That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
“We agree that homosexuality and transgender status are distinct concepts from sex,” he added later. “But, as we’ve seen, discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex; the first cannot happen without the second.”
The rulings rest on a pair of arguments the court heard in October in which justices considered whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination, applies to LGBTQ and transgender workers.
Discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex; the first cannot happen without the second.Justice Neil Gorsuch
While Title VII bars discrimination on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, and religion,” the original bill didn’t define “sex” as a term. The Trump administration used that ambiguity to argue that lawmakers’ original intent focused solely on protecting women’s rights and, therefore, shouldn’t be extended to include sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The issue is not whether Congress can or should prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation,” Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco, who represented the Trump administration, argued. “The issue, rather, is whether it did so when it prohibited discrimination because of sex.”
Questions posed by members of the court’s conservative majority in October suggested they largely agreed and believed the remedy should be legislative, not judicial.
“If the court takes this up and interprets this 1964 statute to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Justice Samuel Alito said, “we will be acting exactly like a legislature.”
Justice Alito returned to that theme in a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.
“There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation,” Alito wrote. “The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.”
Near the end of arguments in October, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court’s liberal bloc, appeared to argue that Title VII should indeed be used to protect groups that historically have faced discrimination.
“We can’t deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are and not because of religious reasons, not because they are performing their jobs poorly, not because they can’t do whatever is required of a position,” she said, “but merely because they’re a suspect class to some people.”
The Supreme Court reached the decision after considering a trio of cases all filed in 2018.
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In Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, a Long Island skydiving instructor named Don Zarda was fired after telling a client he was gay. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled Zarda’s firing was discriminatory, the 11th Circuit ruled the opposite way in a similar case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, in which plaintiff Gerald Bostock said he was fired after joining a gay recreational softball team.
“There are truly no words to describe just how elated I am,” Bostock said in a statement Monday. “When I was fired seven years ago, I was devastated. But this fight became about so much more than me. I am sincerely grateful to the Supreme Court, my attorneys, advocacy organizations like GLAAD, and every person who supported me on this journey.
“Today, we can go to work without the fear of being fired for who we are and who we love. Yet, there is more work to be done. Discrimination has no place in this world, and I will not rest until we have equal rights for all.”
Stephens’ lawyers argued her firing was a clear example of discrimination because of her sex, and the 6th Circuit agreed.
“The unrefuted facts show that the Funeral Home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer’s stereotypical conception of her sex,” the court wrote in a 49-page decision.
“Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII,” the court said. “It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.”
Stephens told Vox last year she hoped her lawsuit would encourage others to “always strive to be who you are” regardless of the case’s outcome.
“Deep down you know who you are and don’t let anyone else tell you any different,” she said. “Hold your head high and keep marching forward. It will get better.”