What Arkansas' gender-affirming care ruling means for South Dakota

When it comes to gender-affirming care for minors, decisions belong to patients, their parents, and their doctors – not politicians.

We said it over and over again during the 2023 South Dakota legislative session: When it comes to gender-affirming care for minors, decisions belong to patients, their parents, and their doctors – not politicians. It is unconstitutional to single out one group of people and categorically ban all care.

Some of our elected officials disagreed. House Bill 1080, legislation that prohibits doctors from providing life-saving gender-affirming health care to trans youth in South Dakota, passed and was signed into law. 

Tell S.D. to buck up and oppose anti-trans bills in 2024

American freedom

But a federal judge in the 8th circuit court – the same jurisdiction South Dakota falls under – permanently blocked an Arkansas law that aimed to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, finding the law violates the Constitutional rights of transgender youth, their parents, and their medical providers. The court held that plaintiffs prevailed on all their claims, finding the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clauses, and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The decision follows a weeks-long trial in the fall of 2022 and is the first final merits ruling in the country on such a law. Similar laws in Alabama, Florida, and Indiana are blocked by preliminary injunctions from federal courts. 

This decision sends a clear message: Laws like this, when tested by evidence, are indefensible under any standard of constitutional review. 

It’s not too late, however, for the same legislators who supported House Bill 1080 to change their positions and use their power to undo the harm the new law will inevitably cause for trans South Dakotans (and avoid costly taxpayer-funded litigation, like in Arkansas).

Even when our legislators aren't in Pierre, they need to keep hearing from you, their constituents. We will continue to do all that we can to fight for their rights and well-being of trans South Dakotans in the face of government-sanctioned discrimination.

Send your message now! 


Brandt et al v. Rutledge et al

Four families of transgender youth and two doctors have challenged an Arkansas law that would prohibit healthcare professionals from providing or even referring transgender young people for medically necessary health care. 

Dylan Brandt and Joanna

Some of the families who have sued the state are considering leaving their homes, their jobs, their extended families, and their communities, to ensure their children are able to access gender-affirming care. The care that would be banned by the Arkansas law has been shown in recent studies to dramatically reduce depression and suicidal ideation in transgender young people with gender dysphoria.

In addition to doctors in Arkansas opposing H.B. 1570, major medical organizations opposed this law and similar bills proposed throughout the country in 2021.

The families include Dylan Brandt and his mother, Joanna Brandt; Brooke Dennis and her parents, Amanda and Shayne Dennis; Sabrina Jennen and her parents, Lacey and Aaron Jennen; and Parker Saxton and his father, Donnie Saxton.

Dr. Michelle Hutchison and Dr. Kathryn Stambough are also challenging the law because it would prevent them from treating their patients with medically-necessary care or even refer them to other providers for treatment.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU’s Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the law firms of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Gill Ragon Owen, and the Walas Law Firm.