Mid-South states pass controversial bills impacting transgender community

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Lawmakers in all three Mid-South states have passed legislation in recent weeks that critics say discriminates against the transgender community.

On Monday, the Arkansas State Senate gave final approval to HB 1570, which would ban gender confirming treatment for transgender youth.

If signed into law by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the bill will prohibit gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment to minors.

It would also prohibit doctors from referring them to other health providers for treatment.

Opponents, including the ACLU, said Arkansas is the first state in the nation to pass such a law.

It’s the latest in a series of controversial bills that have been introduced across the Mid-South targeting the transgender community.

Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi have all passed laws banning transgender female athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves first signed a bill banning transgender female student-athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s school sports on Mar. 11.

Reeves said the law will protect young girls from being forced to compete with biological males for athletic opportunities.

“This important piece of legislation will ensure that young girls in Mississippi have a fair level playing field in public school sports,” Reeves said. “It’s crazy we have to address it, but the Biden (executive order) forced the issue. Adults? That’s on them. But the push for kids to adopt transgenderism is just wrong.”

On Friday, the governors of Tennessee and Arkansas signed similar bills following weeks of debate.

More: Tennessee House votes to send bill banning transgender athletes to governor’s desk

“I signed the bill to preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition. This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement.

“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition,” said Hutchinson. “As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”

Hutchinson also signed a bill allowing medical workers to refuse non-emergency treatment to someone if they object on religious or moral grounds.

More: Arkansas governor signs transgender sports ban into law

On Monday, Arkansas lawmakers approved HB1570, which bans transgender youth from getting gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.

The Arkansas State Senate passed HB1570 by a vote of 28-7.

Hutchinson hasn’t said whether he will sign that bill.

The ACLU is vowing legal action against Arkansas if the governor signs the bill.

“We will absolutely sue you if this bill passes,” said Chase Strangio. “It violates the Constitution. It singles out a group of young people solely because you do not understand them because you find them to be politically unpopular.”

Kayla Gore is a transgender activist in Memphis and co-founder of My Sistah’s House, a nonprofit serving the transgender community.

She says the message lawmakers are sending will have a negative impact on transgender youth.

“I think we’re not taking into account the vulnerable people who this will affect and what ways it will affect them,” said Gore. “It sends a message that I deserve the treatment that I get and that I have no place in this world and people seek to dehumanize me in every aspect of my life.”

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