Doug Peterson

Nebraska Attorney General

LJS Local View: Safety, law motivate actions

A recent opinion piece in this paper questioned the motives for my work as Nebraska Attorney General. The author claimed that I have declared “war” on our youth, specifically those struggling with gender dysphoria. Since I’ve never met the author, it should be no surprise that this assessment of my actions and motives couldn’t be further from the truth.

The article’s focus was my decision to join with 16 other state attorneys general to file a friend of the court brief defending Arkansas’ Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, also known as the SAFE Act. I encourage readers to review this law, which protects children under 18 who are experiencing gender dysphoria from receiving experimental therapies such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgical procedures that will permanently alter their bodies. The more measured response for such children is long-term psychological therapy.

The Arkansas legislation is well supported by science. Gender dysphoria treatment studies show that, through psychological therapy, a large majority of children become comfortable with their biological sex, thus avoiding any pharmaceutical or surgical intervention. For them, the Arkansas law saves them from irreversible harm.

Arkansas is not alone in choosing this course. According to The Economist, Finland recently revised its medical guidelines for treating such children to focus on psychological treatment instead of drugs. Also, a leading clinic in London just suspended its practice of administrating puberty blockers, and a children’s hospital in Stockholm stopped prescribing puberty blockers to anyone under 18.

It is simply wrong to suggest that there is medical consensus on this issue. The topic is very complex. The Arkansas State Legislature chose to protect children from irreversible harm caused by unsubstantiated pharmaceutical and surgical procedures. That is why I supported it.

The opinion piece also suggests that some sort of animus motivated my decision to join a lawsuit challenging former President Obama‘s executive order implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Once again, there’s a lack of any understanding as to the motive of this lawsuit.

President Obama himself recognized his lack of power to use an executive order to expand rights under our immigration laws. When he was initially questioned about issuing an executive order, he said: “There are enough laws on… our immigration system, that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates, would not conform with my appropriate role as President.”

Executive orders have a very limited purpose and should never be utilized by a President to unilaterally expand or create legislation, which is the sole responsibility of Congress. Some people are comfortable with a President expanding the law and legal rights via executive order if the President is from their party, but they are quickly alarmed if a President they oppose attempts to do the same. The DACA lawsuit filed by states challenges the expanding of immigration law because it violates the separation of powers. I have always maintained that the Constitution dictates that public policy issues surrounding DACA need to be fully debated and voted on by Congress and not through a unilateral executive order. 

The opinion piece emphasized the importance of “speak[ing] truth to power.” But speaking truth is different than reactive emotion. The truth is that I supported the Arkansas law because of a well-documented concern for kids, and I opposed the DACA executive order because it violates the separation of government powers. Any other claim simply doesn’t speak the truth.