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Arkansas Gov. defends veto of anti-trans bill amid Trump criticism, but his compassion has its limits

Asa Hutchinson called for compassion for trans youth on a national television appearance, but also stood behind signing a trans athlete ban.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Interview
GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas took to the airwaves to defend his decision to veto a bill to criminalize affirming health care while upholding his decision to sign a bill to ban transgender women and girls from school sports

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) took to the airwaves last weekend to defend his now-overridden veto of a bill that made Arkansas the first state to prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming health care for trans people under age 18. He also took some heat from former President Donald Trump seeking to further his influence on the GOP.

In remarks on CNN’s “State Of The Union”, Hutchinson reaffirmed his stance. “This was going too far. It interferes with patient care and interferes with parental decisions on an area that the science is continuing to learn more about,” he said to Jake Tapper. “We can debate (the issue) on conservative principles, but let's show compassion and tolerance as we do that.”

A piece of what influenced Hutchinson to veto was cited by journalist and Outsports Triumph Award Winner Katelyn Burns. In an article in the Business Insider, Burns chronicled a meeting between the governor and two trans Arkansans. One of the participants in the meeting was the state’s only openly transgender elected official.

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Hutchinson (left) in a White House meeting with then-President Donald Trump last May. Last week, Trump criticized Hutchinson’s decision to veto at a meeting with Republican National Committee donors in Florida.
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Neither compassion nor tolerance was the response from many in his party from state legislators to former President Donald Trump who proclaimed “Bye, Bye Asa!” while touting his own choice to be Arkansas’ governor, former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Due to term limits, Hutchinson cannot run for reelection in 2022.

But it’s worth noting that Hutchinson’s compassion also had limits. Last month, he signed a bill that would ban transgender women and girls from interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics in the state. Such bills have been proposed or voted upon in 32 states this year. The measure was passed even though there are no transgender students currently on a high school or college sports team in Arkansas.

Hutchinson acknowledges that fact, but also maintained his support, citing potential future risks.

“Any time 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 explained. “In this case I did sign the protections for girls in sports. To me it was a fundamental way to make sure girls sports can prosper.”