On Monday, in a rather surprising turn of events, Arkansas’s Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed HB 1570, a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth in the state, which sailed through Arkansas’s Republican-dominated legislature.
During a press conference in which he announced his veto, Hutchinson argued that the terribly cruel bill was a form of government overreach and “extreme,” and that he wished it had been more narrow. “If House Bill 1570 becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” Hutchinson said. He added, “This would be and is a vast government overreach,” before noting the bill was opposed by the state’s leading medical associations and if signed into law, could lead trans youth to have an increased risk of death by suicide.
It’s true that HB 1570 is an extreme form of government overreach, though excuse me if I take his rationale with a grain of salt. It’s the argument one would make if one were actually a small-government Republican with actual principles. But Hutchinson didn’t exactly seem a fan of limited government this year when he signed the state’s near-total ban on abortions into law, when he signed the state’s bill banning trans girls from girls’ sports into law, and when he signed a bill allowing medical professionals to cite religious or moral objections as a valid reason to refuse to treat patients.
Rather, what seemed to equally motivate Hutchinson was a desire to avoid Arkansas being tagged as America’s most transphobic state, with all of the potential economic repercussions that could represent. As Hutchinson noted, “the nation is looking at Arkansas.” “You have to be concerned about the image that you are expressing from a state standpoint,” Hutchinson said. He added, “We want to send a message of tolerance and diversity.” Excuse me while I laugh while also thanking him for vetoing this vile legislation, no matter the reason! Arkansas, just your normal Republican-dominated hate-filled state, but at least one that doesn’t officially want trans kids to die, I guess.
Hutchinson seems to have heard the message from trans kids and parents of trans kids as well as medical professionals, who have overwhelmingly argued that HB 1570 would be cruel, unnecessary, and harm trans kids who depend on gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormone therapy. This past weekend, pediatricians in the state rallied against HB 1570, and parents of trans youth have similarly been speaking out. As the ACLU’s Chase Strangio wrote on Twitter, Hutchinson’s veto “is a powerful rebuke of this nightmare legislation.”
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Hutchinson’s veto can be overridden by a simple majority in the state legislature, which he said he expects to happen. Still, his veto may give legislators pause, not only in Arkansas but in other states that are considering similar bills. Don’t fuck with trans kids.