Walton Foundation, corporate interests join lawsuit against state law banning health care for transgender children
Big business has entered a federal lawsuit challenging the state law that prohibits gender-affirming care for minors in Arkansas.
The ACLU filed the suit along with doctors who provide the care and families whose children are receiving it. They have asked for an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect on July 27.
A star-studded roster of medical groups had already filed to intervene in the case on the side of the families. The U.S. Justice Department has also asked to intervene to protect the rights of transgender people.
Today’s filing injects a political dimension. It puts the multibillion-dollar Walton Family Foundation and other major business interests in the fight on the side of transgender people.
Those seeking to intervene are LiveRamp Holdings, Acxiom, Kenesso, the Northwest Arkansas Council, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Walton Family Foundation. The council and state chamber represent dozens of major businesses.
In bygone days, major corporate interest might have served as a brake on the legislature’s worst impulses. In modern Arkansas, with its devotion to the most extreme right-wing reactionary, Trumpian causes, particularly on social issues, I’m not sure it matters so much. The legislature, though it passes out plenty of benefits to the moneyed class, is also not afraid to put a stick in the eye of those they view as elites. See its recent rude treatment of the University of Arkansas, once a steamroller of a lobbying force.
Nonetheless, support is welcome. It supports their friend, Governor Hutchinson, in his view that this law was too extreme. He vetoed it, but the legislature overrode the veto. The pleading supports the view that this legislation makes Arkansas look like a place unfriendly to diversity and unattractive to business development. The Walton fortune and others have been at work in Northwest Arkansas recently working to depict it as a diverse community full of progressive people and attractions.
The new amici, or friends of the court in legal parlance, say they have a “deep and abiding commitment to supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce.” (A cynic would say they could demonstrate this even more effectively by ceasing political financial support for legislators who vote for discriminatory laws. And there some other lawsuits challenging bad laws in which their support might also be welcome — targeting transgender women, limiting women’s medical rights, limiting voting and so on.)
The filing continues:
“Amici have a significant interest in preventing Arkansas from codifying discrimination against transgender people and, in the process, deterrming current potential employees, customers and businesses from participating in the Arkansas economy. Amici also have an interest in advocating for their core organizational values — that all people, regardless of gender identity should be afforded dignity, respect and equal treatment under the law.”
The health care ban is an “unconstitutional assault” on the rights of transgender people, the filing says. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a candidate for governor, has said the suit should be dismissed. The case is in Judge James Moody’s court.
Here’s a news release on the filing today.
Arkansas business organizations, led by Arkansas Attorneys Jerry Jones and Tom Mars, have filed an Amici Curiae in support of the ACLU litigation of Dylan Brandt, et al. V. Leslie Rutledge, et al. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging the discriminatory Arkansas Act 626, misleadingly known as the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act.
The Amicus Curiae is signed by Acxiom, Kinesso and LiveRamp, The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Northwest Arkansas Council. Together, these industry-leading groups and businesses in Arkansas have determined that implementation of ACT 626 will have a detrimental effect on their businesses, employees and their families. The brief was filed by Steven W. Quattlebaum, John E. Tull III and Meredith A. Powell. The Arkansas groups and businesses that signed the brief are represented by Boris Bershteyn, William J. O’Brien, Andrew J. Schrag, Mary C. Ross, Caleb B. King, J.G. Piper Sheren, and Christoph Zhang.
Filed July 2, 2021
United States District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas, Central Division.
Statement by Tom Mars:
“Today, a group representing many leading Arkansas businesses has spoken with one voice to express their views about the harm the Health Care Ban has already caused to Arkansans and our economy and the further harm that will inevitably occur if this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand. Speaking with unprecedented solidarity, the Arkansas business community has erased any doubt about the degree to which legislated discrimination will impair the growth of countless Arkansas businesses, undo decades of economic progress, and jeopardize the economic prosperity that Arkansas has enjoyed as the result of our business community’s commitment to innovation, inclusion, and creating better lives for all Arkansans.”
Background on Arkansas Act 626:
Act 626 was recently passed during the 93rd General Assembly of the Arkansas State Legislature. The bill will place unconstitutional barriers between patients and medical practitioners from providing lifesaving and gender confirming care in Arkansas. If this law is allowed to go into effect later this month, it will leave Arkansas children and families currently under medical care without appropriate options in the state.