(Updates with West Virginia ruling on transgender sports)
By Dan Whitcomb
July 21 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday barred the state of Arkansas, at least for now, from enforcing a first-in-the-nation law that would ban doctors from providing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or gender transition surgeries to minors.
U.S. District Judge James Moody issued the temporary injunction in response to a legal challenge filed by the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The law was set to take effect July 28.
"This ruling sends a clear message to states across the country that gender-affirming care is life-saving care, and we won't let politicians in Arkansas — or anywhere else — take it away," Holly Dickson, executive director of ACLU of Arkansas, said in a written statement.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would appeal the decision to a higher court. State lawmakers in April overrode a veto by Governor Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson to pass the measure, known as HB1570.
"This evidence-based law was created because we cannot allow children as young as 9 years old to receive experimental procedures that have irreversible, physical consequences," Rutledge said in a statement.
Arkansas was the first U.S. state to ban certain gender-transition treatments to minors. The transgender rights movement is growing, and states are reconsidering affected policies including about bathroom access and sports participation.
In West Virginia on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that an 11-year-old transgender girl could compete in girls athletics, writing that a state law passed in April violated her rights to equal treatment under the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin issued his decision in a legal challenge filed by the ACLU. Although the ruling was narrowly tailored to apply only to the plaintiff, Becky Pepper-Jackson, the judge indicated that he found the law discriminatory against all transgender youth.
Attorneys for the state had argued Pepper-Jackson had innate physical advantages that were unfair to the middle-school girls against whom she competed. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles Additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.