Arkansas governor who vetoed anti-trans law defends other anti-trans bills

State legislature overturned Asa Hutchinson’s block on law banning gender-confirming treatment for young people

Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, has defended his decision to veto a state law banning gender-confirming treatments for transgender youth – a veto the state legislature immediately overturned.

“It’s a conservative position to say that’s not the role of government,” Hutchinson told CNN’s State of the Union. “It is compassionate to say we care for all our young people, whether they’re trans youth or otherwise, we care for them and that’s the message of compassion and conservatism that we need to have as a party.”

But Hutchinson also defended his decision to sign other bills targeting trans rights, one banning trans children from participating in girls’ and women’s sports, even though there are no such cases in Arkansas.

“Anytime you are passing laws to address a problem that currently doesn’t exist but you worry about in the future you have a potential of getting it wrong,” he said. “But in this case I did sign the protection for girls in sports which says biological males cannot compete on a girls team. To me that’s a fundamental way of making sure girls’ sports can prosper.”

Hutchinson also spoke to NBC’s Meet the Press. “I signed two [bills] that I thought made sense,” he said. “The other one was supporting medical conscience, that doctors can claim a conscience reason if they want to deny a particular procedure but they have to do emergency care. And so those are two bills that I signed.

“The third one was not well done. It did not protect the youth. It interfered with the government getting into the lives of transgender youth, as well as their parents and the decisions that doctors make.”

Regardless, the law could take effect by July. Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said: “This is a sad day for Arkansas but this fight is not over – and we’re in it for the long haul.”

Hutchinson told CNN: “These are tough areas. And … we can debate them on conservative principles but let’s show compassion and tolerance and understanding as we do that and that’s the simple message that I think is important for our party.”

Former president Donald Trump did not show compassion or tolerance towards Hutchinson over his veto, dismissing him as a “lightweight Rino”, or “Republican in name only” and saying: “Bye-bye Asa, that’s the end of him.”

Trump addressed Republican donors on Saturday night. He reportedly abused party leaders and received applause when he repeated his lie that his election defeat was the result of electoral fraud.

Many observers see a party in the grip of Trump’s brutal politics, determined to fight the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential race over “culture wars” issues such as the debate over trans rights.

Alex Conant, a Republican strategist, told the Associated Press “frustration with an inability to move policy at a federal level” – where Democrats hold the White House, Senate and House – “trickles down to more action in the states.

“I think a lot of these state legislatures are responding to the demands of the conservative base, which sees the culture wars headed in the wrong direction.”

During debate on one transgender measure in Arkansas, one Republican cited a Bible verse that called people who wear another gender’s clothes an “abomination”. Another compared parental acceptance of transgender youth to allowing a child to decide to become a cow.

Hutchinson told NBC that among Republican voters, “the fear is about the future, and the fear is also that we’re losing our culture … and so, again, there’s too much. As a Republican party, it’s the principles of limited government and it’s pushing freedom and choice in the free market. That’s what the party is about. We’ve got to apply those principles, even when it comes to the social war.”

Hutchinson is a former congressman who sees himself in the mould of Ronald Reagan. He told CNN: “Are we going to be a narrow party that expresses ourself in intolerant ways, are we going to be a broad-based party that shows conservative principles but also compassion and dealing with some of the most difficult issues that parents face that individuals face?

“Sure, I signed pro-life [anti-abortion] bills and I know that there’s a role for government even in the social issues. But we have to fundamentally ask ourselves, do we need to do this, is there a better way?”

He would not be drawn on whether he plans to run for the presidential nomination in 2024. Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas and a hardline conservative, is among prominent figures jostling to attract donor support.


Martin Pengelly and agencies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Arkansas governor vetoes bill banning medical treatment for young trans people
Asa Hutchinson veto followed pleas from pediatricians, social workers and parents who said measure would harm trans youths

Martin Pengelly in New York and AP

05, Apr, 2021 @8:03 PM

Article image
Arkansas governor calls for changes to controversial 'religious freedom' bill
Governor Asa Hutchinson wants state legislature to pass follow-up measure to bill facing backlash from gay rights groups who say it allows discrimination

Jessica Glenza in Los Angeles

01, Apr, 2015 @5:26 PM

Article image
LGBT battle far from over as 'religious freedom' bills multiply across the US
Even as marriage equality emerges a winner in the US, other hard-won LGBT rights are being attacked under the guise of religious liberty

Sabrina Siddiqui and Nadja Popovich in New York

06, Apr, 2015 @11:00 AM

Article image
Equality groups ready for counterattack against wave of anti-gay bills across US
LGBT and civil rights mobilising to protect gains of the marriage equality movement as Republican-controlled legislatures have introduced more than 85 anti-gay bills

Ed Pilkington in New York

31, Mar, 2015 @11:00 AM

Article image
Arkansas' governor is 'fighting back' to execute five men in 10 days. But why?
Asa Hutchinson insists that carrying out these five divisive executions serves the best interests of the victims’ families – but what’s in it for him?

Ed Pilkington in Little Rock, Arkansas

18, Apr, 2017 @5:59 PM

Article image
Arkansas and Indiana approve redrafted religious freedom bills after backlash
Governors Asa Hutchison and Mike Pence sign hastily revised laws after claims that original wording would discriminate against gay and lesbian people

Tom Dart in Little Rock and Amanda Holpuch in New York

02, Apr, 2015 @11:06 PM

Article image
Arkansas and South Dakota pass bans targeting transgender minors
Measures are among dozens of anti-trans legislation across the US and conservatives have filed more proposals this year than ever before

Guardian staff and agency

30, Mar, 2021 @12:50 AM

Article image
Arkansas governor's son thrust into spotlight over religious freedom bill
Seth Hutchinson, who helped persuade his father to back down over the controversial bill, tells the Guardian the result was because ‘a lot of people stepped up’

Ben Jacobs

02, Apr, 2015 @12:58 AM

Article image
Huckabee: having to accept gay marriage is like telling Jews to serve 'bacon-wrapped shrimp'
Republican 2016 hopeful: ‘We make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then act like Christians can’t have the convictions they have had for over 2,000 years’

Martin Pengelly in New York

01, Feb, 2015 @8:30 PM

Article image
North Dakota and Arkansas argue to reinstate nation's strictest abortion laws
A St Louis appeals court heard oral arguments on the so-called fetal heartbeat laws, which ban abortions if a heartbeat is detected

Lauren Gambino

13, Jan, 2015 @8:40 PM