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Federal court permanently blocks Florida's law against trans health care

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
The Old Major/Shutterstock

The state had banned the care for minors and restricted it for adults.

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A federal court has permanently blocked Florida from enforcing its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors and restrictions on the care for trans adults.

“Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs,” Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida wrote in his ruling, issued Tuesday. “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. To paraphrase a civil-rights advocate from an earlier time, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

“In the meantime, the federal courts have a role to play in upholding the Constitution and laws. The State of Florida can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment — treatment with medications routinely provided to others with the state’s full approval so long as the purpose is not to support the patient’s transgender identity.”

Hinkle also asserted, “Gender identity is real.”

He had temporarily blocked the law last year. When hearing the case in December, he had ripped into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for spreading lies about trans care for young people.

His ruling in the case of Doe v. Ladapo found that Florida Senate Bill 254 and the related Boards of Medicine rules were motivated by disapproval of transgender people and violate the equal protection rights of transgender individuals and parents of transgender minors in Florida. Florida was the first state to pass a law restricting access to health care for transgender adults. The ban on this care for minors was first enacted in March 2023 through the adoption of rules by the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine, at the urging of DeSantis, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, and the Florida Department of Health. SB 254, which was passed by the legislature, signed by the governor, and took effect in May 2023, wrote the ban into state law, subject to a narrow continued-use exception for minors who had started treatment before the ban. SB 254 also created felony criminal and civil penalties for Florida medical providers.

Later, SB 254 added severe restrictions that effectively blocked access to essential medical care for trans adults and minors who would be eligible for the continued-use exception, including requiring that care be provided exclusively by physicians, barring telehealth, and requiring patients to complete unique, onerous, and misleading consent forms.

The case was brought by four trans adults and seven parents of trans minors. They were represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Southern Legal Counsel, and Lowenstein Sandler LLP.

“Today’s ruling is a huge win for transgender people and their families,” Jennifer Levi, senior director of transgender and queer rights at GLAD, said in a press release. “It confirms that health care access must be based on principles of good medicine, not politics. The court today found there is no legitimate purpose for the extraordinary restrictions Florida has put on transgender people’s ability to obtain needed medical care. The decision will no doubt bring huge sighs of relief across Florida by transgender people and those who love them.”

“This ruling lifts a huge weight and worry from me and my family, knowing I can keep getting Gavin the care he needs and he can keep being the big-hearted, smiling kid he is now,” said the plaintiff known under the pseudonym Gloria Goe, mother of a trans son. “I’m so grateful the court saw how this law prevented parents like me from taking care of our children.”

DeSantis has vowed to appeal the ruling. “Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the Court was wrong to override their wishes,” said a statement from his office, as quoted by the Associated Press. “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.”

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.