Major big win for Florida to ban transgender people

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On Tuesday, a federal judge in Florida delivered a scathing evaluation of the state’s prohibition on providing gender transition services to minors. In his ruling, the judge stated that the families of transgender children who had filed a lawsuit against the state were “likely to prevail on their claim that the prohibition is unconstitutional.”

Despite the enactment of the new state law, Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee specifically ruled that three transgender children can receive puberty blockers. However, adults seeking similar care will face new obstacles.

Judge Hinkle’s decision reflects the unfavorable reception that judges may give to bans on transition care, which have faced legal challenges across the country.

In response to an emergency request from the families of the three children, the judge issued a preliminary injunction. The families, along with others, had filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida in March over an administrative ban on gender transition services for minors. On May 17, the lawsuit was expanded to include the new law signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The plaintiffs specifically asked the judge to overturn a section of the law that prevents doctors and nurses from prescribing or administering transition-related medication to children, as well as another section that places medical providers at risk of criminal liability and professional repercussions for doing so.

However, the judge dismissed the state’s arguments, describing them as “a laundry list of purported justifications for the statute and rules” that were “largely pretextual and, in any event, do not call for a different result.”

According to Jennifer Levi, a plaintiffs’ attorney and senior director of transgender rights at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the judge’s ruling extends beyond the three families involved in the case. Levi stated, “The power of the ruling is to make it abundantly clear that the law is unconstitutional.”

The Florida Department of Health declined to comment on the decision, citing the ongoing case.

The provisions of the legislation, adopted by the Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine, which prohibit hormone treatments for individuals under 18 unless they are already receiving such care, are codified in the law. However, Hinkle’s injunction temporarily blocked those standards as they apply to the three plaintiffs.

Over the past year, more than a dozen states have implemented bans or restrictions on transition-related care for children and adolescents. Advocates of these bans argue that they protect children from potentially harmful and unproven medical procedures. However, this position contradicts the stance of the majority of the medical establishment, which considers such treatment to be medically necessary and beneficial for some gender dysphoric children.

Opponents of the Florida law claim that it is “particularly mean-spirited,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The families’ attorneys argued that the law posed a threat of irreparable harm, as it deprived parents of their fundamental right to make medical decisions for their children and subjected the children themselves to mental and physical harm by denying them necessary care.

Following the passage of the law, Planned Parenthood announced that it would suspend the provision of gender-affirming care in its Florida facilities until mid-June, as it needed to develop new consent procedures for adults seeking treatment and adjust its practices to comply with the new regulation. Other facilities that relied on nurse practitioners to provide care have ceased offering it altogether.

Prior to signing the legislation, Governor Ron DeSantis, who has announced his intention to run for president, had expressed criticism of puberty blockers and other forms of gender transition care for minors. He stated, “That is wrong, and we are pleased that we stopped that in Florida. It is wrong to be sexualizing these kids.” DeSantis referred to gender ideology and the teaching of children that they may have been born in the wrong body as wrong.

The enactment of this law is part of a series of measures targeting LGBTQ individuals that Florida’s conservative-controlled state legislature passed during its annual session. These measures include requiring public school employees to use gender-corresponding pronouns based on birth certificates when addressing students, making it a crime to use restrooms in public buildings that do not align with an individual’s gender assigned at birth, and imposing penalties on establishments that allow minors to attend “adult live performances,” such as drag shows.

While a preliminary injunction has been issued, the legal challenge to the law by the plaintiffs will continue. It remains to be seen how the judicial system will ultimately respond to restrictions on gender transition services for minors. Another indication may come soon as a lawsuit challenging similar legislation in Arkansas, which was the first to prohibit medical treatments for children and adolescents seeking gender transitions, is expected to receive a ruling from a judge in the near future.

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