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Anti-Trans Bill Criminalizing Doctors May Be Dead in Florida

Florida press conference

Above: Jeanette Jennings (center), mother of trans teen Jazz Jennings, speaks against the bill at a press conference. Photo courtesy of Equality Florida.

A bill that would criminalize doctors who provide transition treatment to transgender minors in Florida may well be dead.

The state’s House Health Quality Subcommittee held a workshop on the bill Monday that included testimony from both supporters and opponents of the measure. At the end of the proceedings, the subcommittee’s chair, Republican Rep. Colleen Burton, said the panel would not meet again, and it’s unlikely that the bill will be assigned to another committee, the Miami Herald reports. However, the Senate version of the bill has not had a committee hearing yet.

The legislation would provide for a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000 for doctors who prescribe hormones or puberty blockers to trans people under age 18, or perform gender-confirmation surgery on them (such surgery is usually not done until a person is an adult anyway, in conformance with medical standards).

Those who testified against the bill, in addition to holding a press conference beforehand, included trans young people, medical professionals, and several parents of trans children, such as Jeanette Jennings, the mother of reality TV star Jazz Jennings. She said her daughter, the star of I Am Jazz, “is only alive today because she received lifesaving medical care,” the Herald reports. She and her husband would “rather have a healthy, living daughter than a dead son,” she added.

Jazz had suicidal thoughts as she approached puberty, her mother said. Trans children who are denied transition services or support for their identity have a heightened risk of suicide and other self-harm.

A transgender 16-year-old, identified only as Asher, told the subcommittee, “I transitioned as a matter of survival. Not because I wanted to. But because I had to. So when you think about this bill, you’re thinking about my life.”

Equality Florida, which joined those testifying against the bill, called the legislation dangerous and mean-spirited. “What’s clear is this bill is driven by people who have no concerns whatsoever for the lives and safety of transgender youth,” Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality, said in a press release. “The same groups who oppose antibullying efforts and basic legal protections for LGBTQ Floridians now seek to put transgender young people into hiding by threatening their doctors with 15 years imprisonment.”

Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, the House bill’s sponsor, contended (erroneously) that there are “no real valid diagnoses given to a child before they go down the path of changing their gender,” the Herald reports. But Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is gay, said some Republicans appeared to have had their minds opened to the negative effects of such legislation.

“The fact that the bill was turned into a workshop and the vote was canceled says a lot about what happens when Republican lawmakers started to open their eyes to really understand the dangerous consequences of this bill,” he told the Herald.

Bills to ban transition treatment for minors have been introduced in several states, although so far only bills in South Dakota and Kentucky would join Florida’s in criminalizing doctors. The South Dakota House of Representatives last week approved legislation that would impose up to a year in prison and a fine of $2,000 for doctors who provide such treatment; it now goes to the state Senate. Hundreds of people marched Saturday in Sioux Falls to protest that bill and other anti-trans legislation pending in South Dakota.

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