A federal judge on Tuesday has temporarily blocked a pair of Florida bans on gender-affirming health care for youths in a ruling that outright condemns anti-trans bigotry and goes as far as to debunk bogus claims from state officials.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, a Clinton appointee, grants a preliminary injunction that blocks enforcement of a new law signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and rules that prevent a group of trans youth who sued the state from accessing widely accepted care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, as their legal challenge plays out.
Those who violate the law risk being convicted of a third-degree felony crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, according to Florida’s criminal code. “The new law additionally limits access to care for transgender adults by significantly narrowing the pool of providers who are able to legally administer treatments and requiring that patients over the age of 18 submit documentation that does not yet exist,” according to The Hill.
The ruling follows a lawsuit against the state’s surgeon general from a group of Florida families with trans children, who argued that the state could not “demonstrate any rational basis, much less an important or compelling one, for the transgender medical bans which prevent transgender adolescents from getting safe and effective medically necessary healthcare.”
Judge Hinkle wrote that “gender identity is real” and agreed with the plaintiffs that gender-affirming care is “medically necessary.”
Judge Hinkle’s ruling disembowels the state’s transphobic arguments and points to discriminatory language and bigotry that have fueled Florida’s rules as well as similar legislation across the country, condemning the “unspoken suggestion running just below the surface in some of the proceedings that led to adoption of the statute and rules at issue – and just below the surface in the testimony of some of the defense experts – is that transgender identity is not real, that it is made up.”
“The elephant in the room should be noted at the outset. Gender identity is real. The record makes this clear. The medical defendants, speaking through their attorneys, have admitted it,” the judge wrote.
“Nothing could have motivated this remarkable intrusion into parental prerogatives other than opposition to transgender status itself,” he wrote.
“The defendants say, in effect, that the organizations were dominated by individuals who pursued good politics, not good medicine,” Hinkle noted. “If ever a pot called a kettle black, it is here. The statute and the rules were an exercise in politics, not good medicine.”
Hinkle also condemned outright bigotry in his ruling, writing: “This is a politically fraught area. There has long been, and still is, substantial bigotry directed at transgender individuals. Common experience confirms this, as does a Florida legislator’s remarkable reference to transgender witnesses at a committee hearing as ‘mutants’ and ‘demons.’ And even when not based on bigotry, there are those who incorrectly but sincerely believe that gender identity is not real but instead just a choice.”
Hinkle’s “mutant” and “demons” comment is a reference to state Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona), who in April disparaged transgender people during a Florida hearing on a bill, eventually signed into law, that makes it a misdemeanor offense for someone to use a bathroom that doesn’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth.
THE COURT CALLED OUT THE LEGISLATOR WHO CALLED TRANS PEOPLE "MUTANTS" AND "DEMONS!" pic.twitter.com/xdDtv8yBGo
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) June 6, 2023
Gender-affirming care is supported by major medical organizations, and has been deemed as medically necessary and potentially lifesaving for trans youth by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Go deeper: Axios Explains: Gender-affirming care in the U.S.