LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday that he has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited any person under 18 in Arkansas from getting treatment involving gender reassignment surgery or medication.
During a press conference, Hutchinson called HB1570, titled “The SAFE Act” by sponsors, a “vast government overreach” by the state legislature.
Starting by noting that he recognized that Arkansas was at the center of the “cultural war in America,” the governor called the bill “well-intended” but said it was “off-course.”
Hutchinson said putting HB1570 into law would create new standards of “legislative interference” between parents and doctors.
Noting that while only a small group of young people face gender dysphoria, the governor said they still deserve to have the “guiding hand” of their parents and health care workers directing their courses of treatment.
The bill, which cleared the state senate and house with strong majorities, now heads back to the general assembly, where a simple majority vote could override the governor’s veto.
Hutchinson has already signed a pair of bills this session that critics say target the transgendered community.
Senate Bill 289, also known as The Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, was a new version of a measure that was first presented in the 2017 legislative session.
A little over a week ago, Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 354, titled the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, saying at the time he thought the measure will “help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
Another bill focused on transgendered youth, which would mandate staff in school to refer to students by the name and gender on their birth certificates, is still in committee in the Arkansas House.
Rep. Robin Lundstrum & Sen. Alan Clark, sponsors of the “SAFE Act” bill, held a news conference following the governor’s announcement of the veto.
Lundstrum noted that she had hoped for a different outcome but pushed back against the governor’s claim of overreach, saying the bill only restricted chemical or surgical procedures.
Clark said he was “profoundly disappointed” Hutchinson’s decision, saying that the bill was designed to protect children from long-term effects of these treatments and that he was confident that the General Assembly would overturn the veto.
The veto was met with some support. The ACLU of Arkansas issued a statement saying in part that the veto “belongs to the thousands of Arkansans who spoke out against this discriminatory bill.”
“This veto belongs to the thousands of Arkansans who spoke out against this discriminatory bill, especially the young people, parents, and pediatricians who never stopped fighting this anti-trans attack,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “Medical decisions should be left up to trans youth, their parents, and their doctor – not politicians or the government. Arkansas legislators should recognize the work Governor Hutchinson put into this decision and follow his lead by allowing this veto to stand. We remain committed to stopping this law from harming the people of this state, including going to court if that is what legislators force these families to do to protect their children.”
There is no word at this time on when a vote to overturn could happen.