Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson urged Republicans to become more compassionate and tolerant before calling trans girls “males”.
Hutchinson spoke to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday (11 April) about the future of the Republican party, and his decision to veto a state law banning gender-affirming treatments for trans youth – a veto the state legislature ultimately overturned.
He said: “It’s a conservative position to say that’s not the role of government.
“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.”
Hutchinson was targeted by other Republicans for vetoing the healthcare ban for trans youth, and former president Donald Trump called the Arkansas governor a “lightweight RINO”. Trump said: “Bye-bye Asa, that’s the end of him.”
Hutchinson told CNN he thought it was “healthy for our society” and “helpful” for the Republican party to have “that kind of vigorous debate about an important issue”. He added such topics – such as LGBT+ rights and transgender issues – will be critical for the “future of our party”.
“Are we going to be a narrow party that expresses ourselves in intolerant ways, or are we going to be a broad-based party that shows conservative principles, but also compassion in dealing with some of the most difficult issues that parents face, that individuals face?” he asked.
But, as he was spouting a message of compassion, Hutchinson defended his decision to sign another bill banning trans youth from participating in girls’ and women’s sports, even though he acknowledged there are no such cases in Arkansas. He also took the opportunity to call trans girls “biological males”.
“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.”
He argued the anti-trans bill was a “fundamental” way for him to make “sure girl’s sports can prosper”.
Asa Hutchinson then circled back to say trans issues are “tough areas”, and he called for Republicans to be more mindful of how they debate them. He said: “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.”