A Florida law blocking treatment for transgender children is thrown out by a federal judge

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A federal judge handed down a verdict on Tuesday Florida Law of 2023 which blocked gender-affirming care for transgender minors and severely limited such treatment for adults, calling the statute unconstitutional.

Judge Robert Hinkle said the state went too far when he banned transgender minors from being prescribed puberty blockers and hormonal treatments with their parents’ consent. He also blocked the state from requiring that transgender adults receive treatment only from a doctor and not from a registered nurse or other qualified doctor. And he banned online treatment for transgender adults.

Hinkle said transgender people have a constitutional right to the legitimate treatment they need and, citing the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., compared those who opposed that to those who once opposed equality for minorities and women.

“Some transgender opponents invoke religion to support their position, just as some once invoked religion to support their racism or misogyny,” Hinkle wrote in his 105-page decision. “Transgender opponents are of course free to maintain their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender people just because they are transgender.

“Over time, discrimination against transgender people will decrease, just as racism and misogyny have decreased,” he continued. “To paraphrase a civil rights activist from an earlier era, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office rejected Hinkle’s ruling, issuing a statement calling it “incorrect” and promising to appeal.

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida have acted to protect children in this state, and the Court was wrong to override their wishes,” the statement said. “As we have 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 cause permanent, life-changing damage to children, and history will look back on this craze with horror.”

But those who sued the state applauded the decision.

Lucien Hamel, a transgender adult, made a statement saying, “I am so relieved that the court saw that there is no medical basis for this law – it was only passed to target transgender people like me and try to force us out of Florida to drive away.”

“This is my house. I have lived here all my life,” he said. “This is my son’s house. I cannot just uproot my family and move across the country. The state should not interfere in personal medical people’s decisions, and I’m relieved that I can once again get the health care I need here in Florida.”

A mother of one of the children who sued said: “This ruling means I don’t have to watch my daughter suffer unnecessarily because I can’t give her the care she needs.”

“Seeing Susan’s fear of this ban has been one of the most difficult experiences we have had as parents,” the woman said. To protect their privacy, she was identified in court documents only as Jane Doe and her daughter as Susan Doe. “All we wanted to do was take away that fear and help her remain the happy, confident child she is today.”

DeSantis had signed the law last year as he geared up for a presidential campaign heavily based on culture wars.

“We’ve never done this in all of human history until, what, two weeks ago? Is this a thing now?” he said to cheering supporters as he signed the bill. “They make third graders explain pronouns? We don’t do the pronoun Olympics in Florida.”

During the trial, Florida attorneys had conceded that the state cannot prevent someone from pursuing a transgender identity, but said it can regulate medical care.

For minors, the only treatments at stake are puberty-blocking treatments and cross-sex hormones, for example giving testosterone to someone born as a woman. Those undergoing treatment when the law was passed in May 2023 were allowed to continue. An operation, which is rare in minors, was still blocked.

For adults, treatment was still allowed, but it could only be performed by a doctor rather than a nurse or other professional. It required the patient to personally sign a consent form while in the same room with the doctor, meaning the treatment could not be conducted via video call or otherwise online – something not normally required with other medical procedures. Violators may face criminal charges and medical providers may lose their licenses.

Hinkle wrote that Florida has long allowed treatment for gender dysphoria, the feeling that one’s gender identity does not match the sex registered at birth.

“But then the political winds changed,” Hinkle wrote. He was appointed to the bench by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996.

For 99% of people, Hinkle wrote, their biological sex and their gender identity are the same. But for some they are different. Hinkle said the state admitted that at trial, even though some may not believe it and think transgender people are making a choice such as “whether they want to read Shakespeare or Grisham.”

“Many people with this view tend to disapprove of anything related to transgender and therefore oppose medical care that supports it,” he said.

He said that while the state concedes that it cannot constitutionally prevent people from identifying as transgender and presenting themselves as they wish, several lawmakers made clear in their comments that that was their goal.

At least 25 states have passed laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and most of those states are facing lawsuits.

The only other ban overturned to the extent unconstitutional is the Arkansas ban, which the state appealed to the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Advocates are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

Judges’ orders have been issued temporarily blocking enforcement of a ban in Montana and certain aspects of the ban in Georgia.