Florida Law Restricting Treatment for Transgender People is Thrown Out by a Federal Judge

On June 11th, a federal judge struck down a 2023 Florida law which blocked gender-affirming care for transgender minors and restricted this treatment for adults. For minors, this law stopped puberty blocking treatments and cross-sex hormones. For adults, this law still allowed treatment, but it could only be done by a physician, not an advanced practice registered nurse or other professional. It also required the patient to sign a consent form in person while in the same room with the doctor. Hence, the treatment couldn’t be done online. This is not something normally required with other medical procedures. Violators could be charged criminally and medical providers could lose their licenses. This law clearly has major implications and is forcing transgender Floridians to jump through unnecessary hoops. 

Federal Judge Robert Hinkle, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996, called the statute unconstitutional. He said the state went too far when it barred transgender minors from being prescribed hormonal treatments and puberty blockers with their parents’ permission. He also stopped the state’s requirement that transgender adults only receive treatment from a doctor and banned online treatment for transgender adults. 

In his decision, Judge Hinkle said transgender people are constitutionally entitled to the legitimate treatment they need. He quoted Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. by comparing those who oppose it to those who were also against equality for minorities and women. “Some transgender opponents invoke religion to support their position, just as some once invoked religion to support their racism or misogyny,” Hinkle wrote in his decision. “Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished.” Hinkle wrote that Florida had long allowed treatment for gender dysphoria, but now the political winds have changed so many people disapprove of all things transgender. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has made anti-LGBTQ+ legislation a big part of his agenda, blasted this ruling. His office issued a statement calling it erroneous and vowing to appeal. Their statement said “Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state and the Court was wrong to override their wishes. As we’ve seen here in Florida, the United Kingdom, and across Europe, there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children. These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children and history will look back on this fad in horror.” When Governor DeSantis signed the bill last year he was quoted saying “We never did this through all of human history until like, what, two weeks ago? Now this is something? They’re having third graders declare pronouns? We’re not doing the pronoun Olympics in Florida.” However, at trial Florida’s attorneys conceded the state cannot stop someone from pursuing a transgender identity and presenting themselves as they wish. Instead, they insisted the state could regulate medical care. Governor DeSantis reiterated this and reaffirmed his plan to appeal this decision in a press conference on Wednesday

Those who sued the state of Florida welcomed this decision. Lucien Hamel, a transgender adult, issued a statement saying “I’m so relieved the court saw there is no medical basis for this law. It was passed just to target transgender people like me and try to push us out of Florida.” He continued “This is my home. I’ve lived here my entire life. This is my son’s home, too. I can’t just uproot my family and move across the country. The state has no place interfering in people’s private medical decisions and I’m relieved that I can once again get the healthcare that I need in Florida.” A mother of one of the children plaintiffs, Susan Doe (to protect her privacy), said “This ruling means I won’t have to watch my daughter needlessly suffer because I can’t get her the care she needs. Seeing Susan’s fear about this ban has been one of the hardest experiences we’ve endured as parents. All we’ve wanted is to take that fear away and help her continue to be the happy, confident child she is now.”

This is not just an issue in Florida. At least 25 states have adopted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors and most of those states face lawsuits. The only other ban to be struck down as unconstitutional so far is the ban in Arkansas. However, the state has appealed that decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Currently, advocates are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors and judges’ orders are temporarily in place blocking the enforcement of a ban in Montana and some aspects of the ban in Georgia. Clearly, transgender rights are being intentionally targeted by Republicans and we must act to protect them from this discrimination. 

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