Predictably, Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders was not happy with the recent federal court decision to overturn her state's ban on gender-affirming care for trans kids
No one should be distracted by her hysterics. The state lost the case simply because it couldn't justify banning gender-affirming care for trans kids. It's easy to create laws or sway voters with lies but in a court of law, facts matter. And in this case, Arkansas failed to provide the facts.
Independent journalist Erin Reed (folks should really support her work. She is very good) wrote a brilliant summation of the judge's decision:
The crux of Judge Moody’s ruling lies in the substantial 311 individual statements of fact, many of which decisively dismantle arguments made against gender affirming care. These facts apply to issues from the rarity of detransition to the vital medical benefits that gender affirming care offers transgender youth. The statements also rule on the credibility of the state’s experts as well as the plaintiff’s experts. The court found the plaintiff's experts to be extraordinarily credible, while the state’s experts were deemed to be considerably lacking in credibility and motivated more by religious beliefs than sound policy. Even religious organizations lobbying for anti-transgender laws, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, are probed within these factual statements.
One statement of fact was about the "experts" Arkansas used to justify its ban:
Judge Moody offered a biting critique of the credibility of the witnesses fielded by Arkansas, stating their opinions were "more rooted in ideology than in science." Backing this statement, Moody pointed out the significant lack of training that state experts possessed in providing gender-affirming care. For instance, Dr. Mark Regnerus, a sociologist specializing in sexual relationship behavior and religion, lacks any clinical or psychological experience with transgender individuals.
Similarly, Dr. Patrick Lappert, a plastic surgeon, has no experience in mental healthcare, let alone in gender-affirming care. Furthermore, Dr. Paul Hruz, a pediatric endocrinologist put forward by the state, has never treated a patient for gender dysphoria. Of particular note was the involvement of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in recruiting the state's experts.
Judge Moody highlighted that Dr. Regnerus, Dr. Hruz, and Dr. Lappert were all connected through an ADF seminar in Arizona meant to recruit witnesses for court cases like this one. Given the nature of their testimony and how they were recruited, the judge observed that the state experts were "testifying more from a religious doctrinal standpoint than from the perspective expected of experts."
In a post last night, I wrote about how one of those experts, Regnerus, created a fraudulent study in 2012 in an effort to justify a ban on marriage equality. The point was to show that the same folks who fought our right to marry are now fighting against the right of trans people to get decent healthcare.
But there is also another linkage.
This isn't the first time using poor witnesses led Arkansas to lose a case in which it was attempting to defend anti-LGBTQ law. And wouldn't you know it? A Huckabee was involved in that situation. Sanders's father, Mike Huckabee, was governor in 2004 when a state judge ruled that gays and lesbians could be foster parents.
According to a January 1, 2005 edition of The SF Gate
An Arkansas judge's ruling allowing gays and lesbians to become foster parents contains findings on parental fitness that could have an impact in both the U.S. Supreme Court and a court in San Francisco, where major decisions on the rights of same-sex couples are imminent. In his ruling Wednesday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox said the ban enacted by an Arkansas state agency in 1999 had nothing to do with protecting children's health or welfare, but instead was an attempt to regulate "public morality," which is beyond the agency's authority. Fox also issued a series of findings, based on testimony by child welfare and mental health experts:
In that case, Arkansas used an "expert witness" by the name of George Rekers. An ACLU Fact Sheet on Rekers said the following:
Rekers is one of the founders of the Family Research Council, a notoriously anti-gay group.
Rekers relies on the discredited research of Paul Cameron, an anti-gay “”researcher”” who was kicked out of the American Psychological Association for misrepresenting the research regarding homosexuality.
Rekers has suggested that gays are unsuitable to serve as foster parents because they’re at higher risk for AIDS and other sexually-transmitted disease, ignoring the fact that there is a physical examination required of all foster parent applicants in Arkansas that would weed out any applicants with health conditions that could jeopardize a foster child.
Rekers says that children are best served when raised by both a mother and a father, but doesn’t favor excluding single heterosexual single women from fostering.
Rekers is an ordained minister in the southern Baptist convention. He has strong religious beliefs about homosexuality and the role of men and women, including the belief that married women should be submissive to their husband’s leadership in the home.
Rekers practices “”conversion therapy,”” the attempt to “”cure”” people of being gay.
Rekers has said he favors pulling children from long-term placements with gay foster parents if the opportunity arises to place them in homes headed by straight parents even though, as he acknowledges, research shows such transitions are traumatic for children.
That should give you an idea of what Rekers would say in his testimony. According to an October 6, 2004 edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:
Little Rock attorney Kathy L. Hall, who represents the Arkansas Child Welfare Agency Review Board, questioned Rekers about his opinion regarding placement of children in foster homes where at least one person is homosexual. The board approved a regulation in 1999 prohibiting such placements. "It would be in the best interest of foster children to be placed in a heterosexual home,"
Rekers began, adding that children in foster care are more likely to already have psychological disorders. He said that because the majority of people in the country — according to one public opinion study — disapprove of homosexual behavior, placing vulnerable children in a home with a gay person would intensify their stress. "That disapproval filters down to children,"
Rekers said. "Children will express disapproval in more cruel, insensitive ways" toward children being raised in a household containing a gay person.
In his ruling, Judge Fox did not give a positive opinion of Rekers's testimony. From The SF Gate:
Fox, in his ruling, described Rekers' testimony as "extremely suspect" and said the witness "was there primarily to promote his own personal ideology."
Rekers later demanded over $200,000 ($165,000 initially plus late fees and other charges) as payment for his testimony. He and the state reached an agreement for $60,000 in 2006. In 2010, Rekers was embroiled in a huge scandal in which he paid a male escort to accompany him on a trip to Europe. The escort claimed that he and Rekers had "heavy petting type sex."
All in all, one would think that Arkansas would have learned its lesson about relying on bad experts to defend anti-LGBTQ laws. Lucky for the state's trans community, it clearly didn't.