Editor’s Note: Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate and elsewhere. The views expressed here are the author’s. Read more opinion on CNN.
Less than one week after perhaps the most egregiously anti-transgender bill in modern US history passed the Arkansas legislature, it was vetoed in a surprise move by Governor Asa Hutchinson, a staunch Republican with a poor record on LGBTQ and civil rights. Less than one day later, the General Assembly voted Tuesday to override the governor’s veto, making their state the first in the country to outlaw gender-affirming treatment for trans youth.
The bill, HB 1570, erroneously dubbed the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act” (SAFE), would have prohibited medical providers from delivering gender-affirming health care to transgender individuals under the age of 18. The bill passed with a large majority in both legislative chambers. And less than a month prior, Hutchinson signed two anti-LGBTQ bills, one that allows health care workers to turn LGBTQ people away from non-emergency treatment and one that denies transgender women and girls the ability to play on female sports teams.
The hotly-contested legislation was the most egregious in a string of attempts in state legislatures across the country to prevent transgender people from accessing facets of civic life the rest of us take for granted, including health care and participation in sports. The veto override was perhaps less surprising and far more depressing.
“Though I can’t speculate as to Gov. Hutchinson’s true intentions, this decision demonstrates the beginning of a shift among conservative politicians about whether interfering with the health and well-being of transgender young people is a bridge too far,” Preston Mitchum told me Monday. Mitchum is the policy director for Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, a network of community activists founded by Gloria Steinem and focused on sexual health.
Of course, this moment could be but a blip in an otherwise vast sea of bills. In the end, the governor’s action could not stop the bill from becoming law.
But maybe, just maybe, we’re seeing a glimpse of a different paradigm emerge. One in which party lines aren’t written in blood, but in erasable ink, amenable to reason and logic, to pushback and critique.
This year, in fact, there is a record number of bills targeting transgender people, with more than