Florida Transgender Ban Survives Court Challenge for Now

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
September 13, 2023US News
Florida Transgender Ban Survives Court Challenge for Now
Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivers remarks at the 2023 Christians United for Israel summit in Arlington, Va., on July 17, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A Florida federal district court judge on Tuesday denied a motion to temporarily block a portion of a state law allowing the enforcement of a ban on transgender treatments for adults while a legal challenge plays out.

The lawsuit centers on a constitutional challenge to a Florida law, Senate Bill 254, that restricts minors’ access to transgender surgeries and hormone treatments, which are typically referred to under the umbrella of “gender-affirming care.”

In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a bill that, in part, prohibits transgender surgeries and puberty blockers for minors. That law also requires adults seeking such medical treatments to give consent in person and in the presence of a physician. Reporting has revealed that such treatments have often been recommended by health care providers over the phone.

In June, District Judge Robert Hinkle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, temporarily blocked a part of the law’s enforcement on behalf of minors citing concerns about its constitutionality amid ongoing litigation. He ruled that the Florida law that bans transgender procedures for minors has no rational basis and is likely unconstitutional.

That ruling came after three families filed a lawsuit in March against Florida officials due to bans on transgender procedures, including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries. These bans were enacted by the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine and took effect that month. The families also challenged the new law signed by Mr. DeSantis.

However, on Tuesday, Judge Hinkle rejected a plea from adult plaintiffs who sought to expand that injunction. The plaintiffs, who joined the ongoing lawsuit in July, argued that their medical care had been disrupted by the law.

However, the judge found that the law doesn’t “prohibit adults from obtaining treatments of the kind the plaintiffs seek.”

In their complaint, two plaintiffs contended that they would be unable to obtain hormone treatment from their current providers.

“But despite the plaintiffs’ contrary assertions, they may be able to obtain the treatment from others,” the judge wrote (pdf).

Two other adult plaintiffs claim their scheduled surgeries were canceled by surgeons who cited SB254 as the reason. The judge found this argument to be inadmissible hearsay and that an injunction wouldn’t “cure” that problem anyway.

“The record does not show that a preliminary injunction would affect the surgeons’ willingness to perform the surgeries at this time,” the judge wrote.

The judge also noted that the plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits is “significantly lower now” following an August decision from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Alabama’s felony ban on similar treatments and surgeries to take effect.

The Alabama law, previously halted by a preliminary injunction for over a year, criminalizes doctors prescribing puberty blockers or hormones to people under 19, with a potential 10-year prison sentence if the law is violated. The three-judge panel in this ruling rejected arguments that “the use of these medications” is not “deeply rooted” in America’s history and tradition.

The four adult plaintiffs in the Florida lawsuit had argued that their claims remained valid, including the assertion that the challenged statute and rules were motivated by “discriminatory animus.”

However, Judge Hinkle noted that the plaintiffs did not adequately address this point in their motion and supporting materials or cite relevant cases pertaining to discriminatory animus.

“In short, the adult plaintiffs have not shown they will suffer irreparable harm, between now and the date of a final judgment, caused by any part of the statute or rules as to which the plaintiffs’ challenge is likely to succeed on the merits,” the ruling added.

The full trial is scheduled for November.

Laws banning and restricting transgender surgeries and treatments for minors have been passed in around 23 states since 2021.

Figures show that the number of young people who identify as transgender has jumped significantly in recent years, according to a 2022 report by the Williams Institute, a University of California law school think tank. The report was based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 and 2019 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System and the 2017–2020 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

That report showed that 20 percent of people in the United States who identify as transgender are aged between 13 and 17. This figure was a 100 percent increase since the think tank’s 2017 report.

Jana J. Pruet contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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