Federal Judge Blocks Florida Bans for Transgender Minors

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
June 7, 2023USshare
Federal Judge Blocks Florida Bans for Transgender Minors
A Transgender Pride Flag in West Hollywood, Calif., on April 9, 2023. (Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images)

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a part of a new Florida law that bans transgender procedures for minors in Florida amid ongoing litigation.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle issued the preliminary injunction (pdf) after convening a bench trial. He said a recent Florida law and recent rules issued in the state that bans transgender procedures for minors have no rational basis and are likely unconstitutional.

The judge, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, sided with the plaintiffs. His decision says that three children who seek to transition can continue receiving treatment. The decision is narrowly focused on the three, whose parents brought the lawsuit on their behalf.

The three families had in March sued state officials over bans on transgender procedures—including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery—imposed by The Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, which became effective that month.

They also later challenged (pdf) a new Florida law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 17.  The legislation, in part, outlaws transgender surgery and puberty blockers for minors.

With regard to SB 254, Hinkle’s Tuesday ruling focused on its language involving minors, specifically on the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. The ruling doesn’t address other language in the law that affects adults’ access to transgender procedures.

The preliminary injunction means the three children can continue to receive puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to deal with their gender dysphoria.

Hinkle said that the three children in the lawsuit will “suffer irreparable harm” if they cannot begin puberty blockers adding that the treatment “will affect the patients themselves, nobody else, and will cause the defendants no harm.”

Gender dysphoria, as defined by the federal government, is a “significant distress that a person may feel when sex or gender assigned at birth is not the same as their identity.”

Governor’s Office Responds

DeSantis’s office issued a statement saying that SB 254 will continue to be enforced, with the exception of the three children, who are ages 8, 11, and 11.

“We will continue fighting against the rogue elements in the medical establishment that push ideology over evidence,” said Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary of the Florida governor’s office, in a statement via The Associated Press.

Simone Chriss, a lawyer for Southern Legal Counsel representing the parents, said she hopes that regardless of DeSantis’ position, state attorneys won’t prosecute doctors for providing treatment “that is aligned with every major medical organization—not a rogue few, but all of them.”

The parents in the case had argued (pdf)—individually and on behalf of their minor children—that the bans on transgender procedures for minors violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause because it discriminates based on sex and gender.

Judge’s Opinion

In his 44-page opinion Tuesday, Hinkle wrote the transgender procedures bans for minors “were motivated in substantial part by the plainly illegitimate purposes of disapproving transgender status and discouraging individuals from pursuing their honest gender identities.”

“This was purposeful discrimination against transgenders,” he added. “The plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their equal-protection claim.”

Hinkle said the plaintiffs are also “likely to prevail on their parental-rights claim.” The parents argued that the due process clause protects a parent’s right to control a child’s medical treatment, although the defendants had argued that such a right doesn’t give them a right to insist on treatment that’s prohibited on other grounds.

“Quite so. If the state could properly prohibit the treatments at issue as unsafe, parents would have no right to override the state’s decision,” Hinkle said in addressing the defendants’ argument. But, he said, “there is no rational basis, let alone a basis that would survive heightened scrutiny, for prohibiting these [transgender] treatments in appropriate circumstances.”

The judge said that gender identity “is real” and that the widely accepted standard of care for gender dysphoria “calls for evaluation and treatment by a multidisciplinary team.”

“Proper treatment begins with mental-health therapy and is followed in appropriate cases by GnRH agonists and cross-sex hormones,” he wrote.

“Florida has adopted a statute and rules that prohibit these treatments even when medically appropriate. The plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their claim that the prohibition is unconstitutional. And they have met the other prerequisites to a preliminary injunction.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to the Florida governor’s office for further comment.

From The Epoch Times

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