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Arkansas governor defends veto of transgender bill

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Sunday defended his veto of a bill that would prohibit gender reassignment surgery and treatment — that the state legislature later overrode.

“I said, that’s too much, and this interferes with patient care. It interferes with parental decisions on an area that science is continuing to learn more about,” the Republican governor said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“These are tough areas, tough areas. And what we have to do is, we can debate them on conservative principles, but let’s show compassion and tolerance and understanding as we do that​,” he said.​

The Arkansas House and Senate — both under Republican control — voted last week to override Hutchinson’s veto, while former President Donald Trump blasted the governor as a “lightweight.” 

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
The Arkansas House and Senate voted last week to override Hutchinson’s veto.
Tommy Metthe/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File

GOP lawmakers said they wanted to protect children from having medical procedures they will regret when they become older. ​The bill would also ban the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

But last month, Hutchinson signed a bill to prohibit transgender women and girls from competing in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

Hutchinson was asked why he signed the legislation even though he admitted there are no transgender girls competing in athletics in the state. 

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“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,” he said.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Last month, Hutchinson signed a bill to prohibit transgender women and girls from competing in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

He was asked if the legislation paints Arkansas as intolerant.​​

“I think it has a broad level of support. I think that it is a good bill for our state,” Hutchinson said.

Later he added: “But I want to protect girls​’​ sports. And I think the people of Arkansas and really across the country understand that, if you’re going to have Title IX, if you’re going to have importance of women’s sports, there has to be some level of integrity.​”

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