News (USA)

Florida bill seeks to take trans kids away from affirming parents

: A supporter holds a sign that says "Support Trans Youth"
Photo: Shutterstock

As Florida starts a new legislative session this week, one bill among a wave of legislation targeting LGBTQ+ rights would allow state courts to remove trans minors from their parents’ custody if the child receives or is “at risk” of receiving gender-affirming healthcare.

The GOP-sponsored SB 254 would also reach across state lines to authorize Florida courts to “vacate, stay or modify a child custody determination of a court of another state,” effectively denying parents who are supportive of their child’s gender transition in so-called “safe states” custody of their children.

“This is becoming interstate legislative warfare over trans youth,” posted trans activist Erin Reed.

The legislation would enable one parent opposed to their child’s transition to seize them from the other and stop treatment.

The bill, introduced by State Sen. Clay Yarborough (R), would grant Florida courts authority to take “emergency jurisdiction” of trans youth who receive or may receive puberty blockers and hormone therapy, or what the bill calls “sex-reassignment prescriptions,” and other gender-affirming care.

The bill defines those procedures as “serious physical harm.” 

“Parents would be charged with felonies and thrown in prison,” posted Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former Florida House lawmaker and the state’s first LGBTQ+ Latino legislator. “This is fascist.”

SB 254 would also require health care providers to affirm they don’t provide the treatment to children younger than 18, or face losing their license.

The bill’s assertion that Florida courts have jurisdiction to override another state’s child custody determinations is likely to be disputed by other states.

Alejandra Caraballo, trans activist and clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, posted to Twitter that SB 254 amounts to the “legal kidnapping of trans children.”

“The bill goes even further to violate interstate comity by authorizing 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.”

Reed agreed, adding that the bill is evidence the U.S. is “splitting into states with safe state laws protecting parents and anti-trans states allowing kidnapping.”

SB 254 is one of three bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community introduced this session by state Sen. Yarborough.

SB 1320 would bar Florida public schools from requiring employees, contractors or students to use someone’s preferred pronouns if they do not correspond with their sex assigned at birth. It would also ban classroom instruction or discussion related to sexual orientation or gender identity through eighth grade. That ban currently runs through third grade. 

SB 1438 addresses the controversy surrounding a performance of the touring show “A Drag Queen Christmas” last December, which conservative media seized on, falsely claiming children were being exposed to sexually deviant behavior. The legislation would revoke the license of any “public lodging” that admits a child to a so-called “adult live performance.”

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