Federal judge rules Florida’s ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors is unconstitutional

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s bans on medical care for transgender minors have been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled on Tuesday, striking down a significant legislative priority of Governor Ron DeSantis.

The 2023 law (HB 1421), alongside state board rules, barred minors from accessing medical treatments for gender dysphoria, including puberty blockers and hormones.

In his 105-page decision, Judge Hinkle declared, “Florida has adopted a statute and rules that ban gender-affirming care for minors even when medically appropriate. The ban is unconstitutional.

READ: Federal judge blocks Florida transgender minor treatment ban, says ‘gender identity is real’

Attorneys representing transgender plaintiffs contended that the law, signed by Gov. DeSantis, was an act of discrimination and exhibited “animus” against transgender individuals. In contrast, the state maintained that the law targeted specific treatments rather than transgender people.

Judge Hinkle noted, “It is clear that anti-transgender animus motivated the bill sponsors and at least a significant number of legislators... Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. 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 addition to invalidating the rules banning minors from receiving medical treatment for gender dysphoria, Judge Hinkle also struck down regulations that required transgender adults to obtain treatment exclusively from physicians, rather than other health providers.

Those receiving treatment when the law was adopted in May 2023 are now allowed to continue. Surgery, which is rare for minors, is still blocked.

Gov. DeSantis’ Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern released a statement on the ruling:

Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the Court was wrong to override their wishes. 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. Under Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida will continue to fight to ensure children are not chemically or physically mutilated in the name of radical, new age “gender ideology.” We will appeal this ruling.

READ: ‘Kicked out of public life’: Transgender Floridians say new laws are forcing them to leave the state

Despite state legislative pushback, major medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, support the use of treatments like puberty blockers for children with gender dysphoria.

This ruling follows Hinkle’s previous decision from last year, which struck down Florida’s ban on Medicaid covering treatments for gender dysphoria. The state is currently appealing that ruling.

While the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals permitted a similar Alabama ban on medical treatment for transgender minors to take effect, the Florida case is distinct. The Alabama case did not argue that the laws were based on anti-transgender bias.

Over 24 states at the time of this story have passed legislation that “bans best practice medication and surgical care for transgender youth,” according to the think tank Movement Advancement Project, though currently, not all bans are in effect.

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William Clayton

William Clayton, Action News Jax

Digital reporter and content creator for Action News Jax

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