A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Florida to stop enforcing its bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth for three families who defy the rules.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit initially filed against state medical boards and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo by a group of Florida parents and their transgender children. The plaintiffs amended their suit in May to seek an injunction on the bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that put medical board restrictions into the statute.
Under the injunction, three of the seven parents who contested the ban and sought an injunction can access care for their transgender children while the overall legal challenge continues. In the injunction, US District Judge Robert Hinkle said the parents are likely to win the general case.
The plaintiffs said the bans, which went into effect in March and May, violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause because they singled out transgender children, preventing them from getting medically necessary care. The bans also denied parents the right to make medical decisions for their children, the lawsuit says.
Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine restrictions prevented doctors from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries to treat new patients under the age of 18 for gender dysphoria, the distress one feels about sex assigned at birth. Children who were already taking the drugs were welcomed and allowed to continue treatment.
The bill DeSantis signed, SB 254, banned treatment for children with gender dysphoria and required boards to establish contingency rules about how children already receiving treatment could continue to do so.
In a 44-page order issuing a preliminary injunction against the bans, Hinkle said the elephant in the room should be noted that gender identity is real. She said the tacit suggestion that runs just below the surface that led to the bans being adopted is that transgender identity isn’t real and criticized some of the state experts for endorsing that idea.
Any supporter of the disputed statute and rules should endure or keep silent: Do you acknowledge that there are individuals with real gender identities opposite their natal sex, or not? Hinkle wrote. Dog whistles should not be tolerated.
Hinkle also said the statute and rules make the same decision for everyone, without considering patients’ individual circumstances, instead of allowing patients and their doctors to weigh the risks and benefits of medical treatment.
In her ruling, she rejected the state’s claim that professional organizations advocating for medical treatment for gender dysphoria are biased.
If ever a pot called a kettle black is here, Hinkle said. The statute and rules were an exercise in politics, not good medicine.
She said common experience confirms that there is bigotry directed at transgender individuals, referring to when Webster Barnaby Rep. R-Deltona called out transgender members of the public at a Mutants and Demons committee meeting in April.
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A spokesman for Governor Ron DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Department of Health spokesman declined to comment due to ongoing litigation.
The groups bringing the case, including Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign, released a joint statement.
Today’s ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and the rights of parents to make informed health care decisions for their children, the groups said. The court recognized the profound damage the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their children suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive. We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to receive health care for their children as we proceed to challenge these bans and ultimately see them completely overturned.
Although the injunction is limited to just three parents, Simone Chriss, a lawyer with Southern Legal Counsel, said that when a federal court finds a law or rule is likely to be unconstitutional, the effect is that it shouldn’t be enforced by the state. against no one.
He said his team is exploring options for broader relief, but said he feels grateful to the court for the resounding affirmation of transgender lives and gender-affirming health care that is clarified in this order.
Medical boards began the decision-making process last August after the Ladapo-led state health department urged them to do so. The agency argued that no evidence showed that gender-affirming assistance was effective.
The bans conflicted with long-standing and widely accepted guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics; the Endocrine Society, a global medical organization; and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, an international group focused on the treatment of gender dysphoria.
The anonymous plaintiffs, using pseudonyms, are seven mothers and their transgender children, ages 8 to 14, from Alachua, Duval, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange and St. Johns counties.
In court documents, the St. Johns County mother said her husband is stationed in Florida as a senior officer in the United States Navy. The restrictions put them in an impossible position, she said, because they cannot move to another state where parental rights are truly respected and upheld.
Their 11-year-old transgender daughter could not have started blocking puberty due to the ban.
We worry daily about what will happen to our healthy, happy, thriving daughter if she is forced to go through what she described as her worst nightmare, becoming something she is not, said the mother. Torture is the only word I have identified to adequately describe the feelings of terror a parent experiences in a situation like this.
Lee County’s mother said in court documents that she had scheduled a March appointment at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for her 8-year-old transgender son. That morning, she called to confirm the visit. She was told that the St. Petersburg clinic was not seeing any new patients due to board rules.
This information was shocking to my husband and I, she said. Little did we know that doctors would be prevented from evaluating and prescribing medical treatments that our children may need.
Under the injunction, both parents would be able to seek medical care for their children.
DeSantis, who recently announced her run for president, exploited gender issues in front of socially conservative crowds on the campaign trail.
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