• U.S. District Judge Jay Moody's ruling marks the first time a judge has overturned such a law
  • Moody declared the law unconstitutional and said it violated three parts of the U.S. Constitution
  • Hormone treatment, puberty blockers and surgery for trans youths would have been prohibited if the law took effect

A federal judge has permanently blocked an Arkansas law that aimed to prohibit gender-affirming care from being provided to children. This marks the first time a judge has overturned such a law.

U.S. District Judge Jay Moody declared Tuesday that the state's "Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act" was unconstitutional and said it violated three parts of the U.S. Constitution — the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, according to NPR.

"Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting it, the State undermined the interests it claims to be advancing," the judge wrote in the 80-page ruling, as per the outlet. "The testimony of well-credentialed experts, doctors who provide gender-affirming medical care in Arkansas, and families that rely on that care directly refutes any claim by the State that the Act advances an interest in protecting children."

The Arkansas law, passed in 2021, would have prohibited doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment and puberty blockers, as well as performing surgeries on transgender patients under the age of 18.

The law also made Arkansas the first state in the country to ban transition-related medical care for transgender minors. States like Alabama, Florida and Indiana also saw similar laws on the books, but nearly all of them have been challenged in court and, consequently, put on hold.

After the law was passed in Arkansas, the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of four trans minors, their parents and two doctors in May 2021.

Moody temporarily blocked the law from going into effect in July 2021.

After an eight-day trial in December 2022, Moody's Tuesday ruling said the law would "cause irreparable harm" to the four trans youths and the other parties represented in the suit, NBC News reported.

Moody wrote in his ruling that the attorneys for the state supported the law with five arguments: the banned treatment has harmful side effects, patients would "desist" or no longer identify as transgender when they are older, some patients would regret transitioning, there is a lack of evidence supporting gender-affirming care for minors and doctors are providing treatment without proper evaluation and informed consent.

However, "the evidence presented at trial does not support these assertions," Moody said.

The arguments also did not explain "why only gender-affirming medical care — and all gender-affirming medical care — is singled out for prohibition," the judge added.

Despite acknowledging that there were some "potential risks" associated with gender-affirming treatments, Moody noted in his ruling that "the benefits of treatment greatly outweigh the risks" for many adolescents, CNN reported.

Moody's strike-down of the law could have ripple effects across the country in light of a growing number of Republican-led states trying to enforce restrictions on gender-affirming care.

"This victory shows that these laws, when tested by evidence, are indefensible under any standard of constitutional review," Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union who helped represent the plaintiffs in the case, said, according to the outlet. "We hope that this sends a message to other states about the vulnerability of these laws and the many harms that come from passing them."

Transgender rights activist waves a transgender flag as they protest the killings of transgender women this year, at a rally in Washington Square Park