Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed controversial legislation Monday that would have banned gender-confirming treatments for transgender youth and has made the state a front in what he called "the cultural war in America."
Hutchinson, a conservative Republican, said the bill represented overreach by the state into the private affairs of transgender children, their parents and doctors.
"If House Bill 1570 becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people," he said.
"They deserve the guiding hand of their parents and the healthcare professionals that their family has chosen."
Hutchinson called the bill, which would have made Arkansas the first state to take such action, "well-intended," and acknowledged that the legislature could easily override his veto with a simple majority vote.
Still, he said, the legislation did not address the needs of children already undergoing treatment, and gave the state too much power.
"The state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue. This would be and is a vast government overreach."
The US-based Human Rights Campaign says more than 80 anti-transgender bills have been submitted this year in Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina and a number of other states.
Hutchinson noted that he had already signed two bills that created restrictions relating to transgender people.
One allows doctors to refuse to treat someone on a non-emergency basis based on their own moral or religious objections, including LGBTQ patients.
The second prohibited transgender people designated male at birth from participating in women's sports.
"I think it undermined women's sports to have biological males to compete in girls' sports in high school or college level," he said.
He added that the state did not want to be seen as unwelcoming to the gay and transgender community.
"We want to send a message of tolerance and diversity," he said.
The Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged the legislature to heed the governor and not override his veto.
"This veto belongs to the thousands of Arkansans who spoke out against this discriminatory bill, especially the young people, parents, and pediatricians who never stopped fighting this anti-trans attack,” said Holly Dickson, the ACLU of Arkansas executive director.