Elected leaders have a very important job: passing laws that better the lives of those they represent. But the Arkansas Legislature abused their power in the 2021 General Session by assaulting the Trans community, leaving many Arkansas Trans youth tired, panicked, and in grief.
Despite hearing outrage from the Trans community, parents, and healthcare provides, lawmakers pushed four bills through that threaten the health of Arkansans. True colors were on full display this year at the Capitol, and we saw a whole new level of hate. The blatant attack on this community was just one of the many horrific themes of session. From attempting to erase Black history, to continuing to brush off hate crimes, and passing restrictive voting laws, our leaders were busy, but not doing their job.
Anti-Trans Legislation Breakdown
Bans gender-affirming treatments to Trans youth, and has no exemption for those already receiving treatment. This bill attack kids, undermines parents, and prevents healthcare workers from doing their jobs.
Bans Trans girls from playing sports in school. This is a solution in search of problem, and it directly attacks marginalized children in our state.
Expands on the ban on Trans girls playing sports, allowing the Attorney General to sue any school that violates the law. This pits the state against schools and students.
Allows healthcare professionals to deny care based on their personal religious belief. The bill itself is incredibly vague, which is what makes it so dangerous. There is no limit on what would constitute denial of service other than in cases of “emergency.”
How Far Did Lawmakers Go to Get What They Want
Another aspect of the legislature’s job is listening to constituents. After all, our state motto is “The People Rule,” meaning we absolutely have a right to voice our concerns to our leaders. But our current representatives think they have the ultimate rule, showing little interest in what the public has to say.
Numbers of Arkansans came to testify against these bills, and all were met with a cold shoulder from elected officials. Looking around the committee room while people were testifying against, you saw lawmakers on their phones, holding private conversations, and sharing exasperated looks. Few seemed to be listening at all.
During one committee hearing, things drastically escalated when Rep. Jack Ladyman had Chris Attig arrested while he was testifying against HB1070 on behalf of his son and other Trans kids in Arkansas.
Overall Cost of Trans Hate
The monetary cost of these bills passing is hard to pinpoint exactly, but we know it will be BIG. Taxpayers pay the price when state the legislature pass unconstitutional laws. The ACLU has already filed a lawsuit against HB1570, which will be the first of many. All of this to say, your hard-earned tax dollars that should be funneling back into your community will be used for court fees instead.
On the other hand, there’s a much larger, intangible cost. These bills hurt Arkansas children, wear down trust in the system, and leave an entire community wondering what state would be safer to call home. Trans and LGBTQ+ community leaders across the state are worried about the damage these bills will have on the youth.
In the interview, Freeland, Executive Director of Lucie’s Place, a homeless shelter and resource center for LGBTQ+ young adults, explains that these bills have caused a panic within the community. Since the introduction and passage of the bills, over 100 people a week are reaching out to Lucie’s Place for help.
What Can We Do?
What happens next will be determined in the courts. But we cannot stop pushing for fair, equatable representation. Contact your elected officials today. Let them know your tax money isn’t theirs to play with. And in 2022, we can take a stand against hate and abuse of power by working to unseat our current leaders.
But until then, we can spread awareness and stand with our neighbors, family, and friends. Together, we can change the direction Arkansas is heading. Leaders shouldn’t write laws that single out and hurt communities. Every Arkansan deserves a safe place to call home.