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Federal judge overturns Florida’s gender-affirming care ban in historic victory for trans rights

The trans flag at an August 21, 2017 protest
Photo: Shutterstock

A U.S. District Court permanently blocked Florida from enforcing a ban on transition care for transgender minors and some trans adults.

In a ruling issued earlier today, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida said, “Florida has adopted a statute and rules that ban gender-affirming care for minors even when medically appropriate. The ban is unconstitutional.”

The law included bans on puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, restrictions from licensed healthcare providers giving care to their consenting patients, and the criminalization of care under the legislation.

“Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender,” Hinkle writes. “In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished. To paraphrase a civil-rights advocate from an earlier time, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In the written opinion, he outlined how this ban is unconstitutional, violating the rights of transgender Floridians as well as the plaintiffs.

The 105-page ruling cites the reality of gender dysphoria and the need for trans people to receive care for their mental health, as well as the unscientific nature of the original ban. It emphasizes that the majority of medical organizations around the world support gender-affirming care.

It also gives evidence of anti-trans bigotry motivating the ban and outlines the details in which Florida officials have been complicit in revoking healthcare for trans people across the state.

The DeSantis administration said that it would appeal the decision.

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the Court was wrong to override their wishes,” said Jeremy Redern, press secretary to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). “We disagree with the court’s erroneous rulings on the law, on the facts, and on the science. As we’ve seen here in Florida, the United Kingdom, and across Europe, there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children. These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children, and history will look back on this fad in horror.”

The case, Doe v. Ladapo, started on March 23, 2023, only a few weeks after S.B. 254 was introduced in Florida’s state Senate. The bill prohibited any gender-affirming care for minors and restricted the insurance coverage for some adults. It also criminalized this care, potentially harming medical providers in the state.

Several families, the majority of whom are anonymous on the case, sued the state’s government after the bill was expected to pass the legislature. DeSantis had already made his opposition to gender-affirming care for minors clear.

After a battle in court, the provisions for minors were temporarily enjoined on June 6, 2023, preventing the bill from immediately going into effect for trans minors. The provisions for adults were upheld in September.

“I’m so relieved the court saw there is no medical basis for this law—it was passed just to target transgender people like me and try to push us out of Florida. This is my home. I’ve lived here my entire life,” said plaintiff Lucien Hamel in a statement. “This is my son’s home. I can’t just uproot my family and move across the country. The state has no place interfering in people’s private medical decisions, and I’m relieved that I can once again get the healthcare that I need here in Florida.”

Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative for the Southern Legal Counsel, said,  “The federal court saw Florida’s transgender minor healthcare ban and adult restrictions for what they are—discriminatory measures that cannot survive constitutional review.” 

“Today’s ruling blocks the state of Florida’s cruel campaign to deny fundamental rights and basic healthcare to its transgender citizens. We are so proud of our brave plaintiffs, without whom we could not have achieved this victory for the state of Florida.”

Trans rights advocates celebrated the victory.

Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, said on X, “Huge win in Florida!!! The restrictions on providing gender affirming care to trans youth and adults have been found unconstitutional after a full trial and are now permanently enjoined. Huge win by Simone Chriss and Southern Legal Counsel. Happy Pride!!!”

Journalist Erin Reed said, “This is a truly massive victory for trans people in Florida. The law there targeting trans youth and adults has been almost entirely overturned.”

Along with Hamel, Olivia Noel, Kai Pope, and Rebecca Cruz Evia, who are trans adults, were added as plaintiffs to the case, showing the breadth of the damage that the law would cause.

The plaintiffs in the case were represented by GLAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Southern Legal Counsel, Human Rights Campaign, and Lowenstein Sandler LLP.

The named defendants are Joseph Ladapo, Surgeon General of the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Board of Medicine, Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine, and William M. Gladson, State Attorney for the the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Florida.

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