Judge blocks Florida ban on life-saving healthcare for trans kids: ‘Gender identity is real’
Florida legislation banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans people under the age of 18 is one step closer to being thrown out, after a judge ruled against it.
On Tuesday (6 June), district court judge Robert Hinkle temporarily blocked Senate Bill 254 after finding that arguments in favour of the legislation were built on the grounds of “dog-whistles” and bigotry.
His decision condemned the state’s arguments for the bill and he particularly criticised the “unspoken suggestion” that transgender people are faking their identities.
“The elephant in the room should be noted at the outset,” the judge wrote. “Gender identity is real, the record makes this clear. The medical defendants, speaking through their attorneys, have admitted it.”
If allowed to go ahead, not only would SB 254 prohibit healthcare providers from prescribing potentially life-saving gender-affirming care to transgender under-18s, but it would also allow state officials to temporarily seize custody of a child from their parents if gender-affirming care is suspected to have been administered.
Additionally, it would require trans adults seeking gender-affirming care to sign a consent form and prevent treatments from being covered by government healthcare insurer Medicaid.
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The law also prevents healthcare professionals from performing gender-affirming surgeries on trans youth, despite there being no institution that provides those surgeries to people under the age of 15.
Proponents of the bill hadn’t adequately justified the need for the legislation without resorting to dog-whistles, and they need to “put up or shut up”, Hinkle said.
“Do you acknowledge that there are individuals with actual gender identities opposite their natal sex, or do you not? Dog-whistles ought not to be tolerated,” he added.
He noted that gender-affirming care has also been accepted by every major medical organisation across the US and slapped down claims that Florida would join an “international consensus” against gender-affirming care.
“This assertion is false. No matter how many times the defendants say it, it will still be false,” the judge made clear. “No country in Europe entirely bans these treatments.”
Emergency lawsuit filed challenging SB 254
A group of Florida families with trans children filed a lawsuit in March to challenge SB 254 after lawmakers introduced the legislation to the House floor.
One of them, who remained anonymous, said the judge’s ruling allowed their family to “[breathe] a huge sigh of relief”.
She added: “My husband and I have been heart-broken and worried sick about not being able to care for our daughter in the way we know she needs. I’m sure most any parent can imagine the sense of powerlessness that comes from being unable to do something as basic as get medical care for your child.”
The Southern Legal Counsel, LGBTQ+ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Human Rights Campaign are representing the families.
In a joint statement, the organisations called the ruling a “powerful affirmation” of the humanity of trans people across the world.
“The court recognised the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive,” they added.
“We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned.”
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