DOJ Challenges Arkansas, West Virginia Transgender Laws

POLITICS & POLICY
The Justice Department building in Washington, D.C., February 1, 2018 (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The Justice Department has filed statements of interest in two lawsuits challenging Arkansas and West Virginia laws pertaining to transgender people, saying the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

In the Arkansas case, the DOJ criticized a new state law prohibiting doctors from performing gender-transition surgery or prescribing puberty blockers to minors. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging that law in a suit filed in May.

“A state law that specifically denies a limited class of people the ability to receive medically necessary care from their healthcare providers solely on the basis of their sex assigned at birth violates the Equal Protection Clause,” the DOJ said in its filing. “These restrictions explicitly target transgender people.”

The DOJ also challenged a West Virginia law banning biological males from participating in women’s sports. The ACLU and Lambda Legal, a law organization dedicated to LGBT issues, have filed suit against that law.

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“A state law that limits or denies a particular class of people’s ability to participate in public, federally funded educational programs and activities solely because their gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth violates both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause,” the DOJ said.

West Virginia governor Jim Justice said he was aware of the possibility that national sport organizations, such as the NCAA, could boycott the state upon passage of the law.

“It concerns me that we may miss out on a really important sporting event or something like that that could come to West Virginia,” Justice said before signing. “However, I think the benefits of it way outweigh the bad part of it.”

Republican South Dakota governor Kristi Noem vetoed a similar bill passed by her state legislature for the same reason: she argued that it would harm the state’s universities and business community when the NCAA and other businesses inevitably boycotted the state.

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchison, a Republican, vetoed the ban on transgender surgery for minors when the bill was sent to his desk. However, the state legislature overrode his veto.

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