Florida Republicans push horrifying bill to remove trans kids from affirming parents

Protesters hold a placard that says, "Protect trans youth" and "Gay" as they protest against Republicans attacking LGBTQ+ rights including education on queer topics and trans healthcare

Florida Republicans introduced a new bill that would allow courts to take custody over trans youth who receive gender-affirming healthcare – or even if the kid is “at risk” of getting treatment.

GOP lawmakers filed SB 254 on Friday (3 March) amid a chilling wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced in recent days in the state. 

The measure would grant Florida courts authority to take “emergency jurisdiction” of trans youth who receive or are “at risk of” receiving gender-affirming healthcare – including puberty blockers or hormone therapy, which have been described as ‘life-saving’ by researchers. 

Florida courts would also be granted jurisdiction to “vacate, stay or modify a child custody determination of a court of another state” to “protect” trans youth from receiving gender-affirming healthcare, meaning supportive family members could lose custody just for helping trans youth access affirming healthcare. 

Additionally, the bill would empower anti-trans family members to seize children from more affirming environments and bring them to Florida if they believe the child is receiving gender-affirming healthcare. 

The bill has been met with intense backlash from advocates and political experts online. 

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Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former House lawmaker and the state’s first LGBTQ+ Latino legislator, expressed his disbelief on Twitter that the vile bill even exists. 

“I can’t believe I’m writing this,” he wrote. “A new Florida bill will tell courts to seize trans children away from their supportive parents if those parents provide or are ‘at risk’ of providing them life-saving care.”

He continued: “Parents would be charged with felonies and thrown in prison. This is fascist.”

Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, tweeted that SB 254 would allow for the “legal kidnapping of trans children” as it grants Florida courts “emergency jurisdiction over those children” as well as allowing courts to “ignore all other court orders and custody determinations”.

“The bill goes even further to violate interstate comity by authorising the courts to vacate child custody determinations of other courts only if the child is trans,” Caraballo wrote. “This is a greenlight to transphobic family members to engage in state sponsored kidnapping.”

Caraballo added the bill would also ban “all public funding for gender-affirming care” – including treatments for minors and adults” – so state and local employees and their families “would be barred from coverage” for trans healthcare. 

Activist Erin Reed said the anti-trans legislation was evidence that the US is “splitting into states with safe state laws protecting parents and anti-trans states allowing kidnapping”. 

“This is becoming interstate legislative warfare over trans youth,” Reed tweeted. 

Florida, like other states across the country, has seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ bill proposals and laws in recent years. 

Republican governor Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which limits discussions on LGBTQ+ topics in public schools in Florida, in March 2022. In 2021, the anti-LGBTQ+ governor approved legislation banning trans girls from playing competitive sports on the correct team.

Other bills in the Florida state legislature this session sought to ban bathroom access for trans peopleprohibit gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth and expand the existing ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to older children as well as ban the use of preferred pronouns and name for trans and non-binary students and teachers.