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Federal judge considers blocking Florida law restricting gender dysphoria treatments for minors

'Walking out I feel optimistic,' Jennifer Levi, a plaintiff attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, says
Posted at 6:30 PM, May 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-19 18:30:29-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge is reviewing whether to halt Florida's ban on gender dysphoria treatments for transgender kids. Plaintiffs at a Friday hearing in Florida's Northern District have alleged the restrictions are unconstitutional and will harm children seeking treatment.

The legal challenge comes shortly after Wednesday's bill signing of SB 254. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis touted the measure as protection of children.

"We just need to let our kids be kids," DeSantis said. "We have a very crazy age that we live in..."

The new law gels with restrictions Florida's medical boards put in place for doctors last year — but adds criminal penalties if a physician prescribes hormone therapy, puberty blockers or surgery to trans patients under 18.

Judge Robert Hinkle, a President Bill Clinton appointee, is now mulling whether the med board rules and new law are in violation of the U.S. Constitution and should be put on hold for violation of equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment.

Attorneys representing at least three Florida minors and their parents said the children seeking these treatments will suffer "irreparable harm" without access.

"Walking out I feel optimistic," Jennifer Levi, a plaintiff attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said. "The judge really understands the legal issues."

Levi said plaintiffs are hoping for a broad injunction from the court that would impact the entire state. That's despite Hinkle's warning his decision might only apply to the minors listed in the lawsuit. Levi said it would still be considered a win as the case's broader legal challenge moves forward.

"That sends a really important to the health care providers throughout Florida about the hopeful demise of this state statute," Levi said.

Attorneys for the state didn't comment following the hearing. In court and filings, they've argued the Legislature and med boards have the authority to make the changes. They consider the treatments "experimental," saying they "come with potentially negative and permanent health consequences."

"I think it's fantastic that they've added the bill to this [lawsuit]," Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said. "This may force these medical organizations, who claim that there's science behind this, to actually produce it."

Fine carried the ban during this year's legislative session. He refutes that the treatments are safe and beneficial, despite backing from groups like the American Medical Association.

Fine said his new law protects against what he considers "child abuse."

"You're allowed to be stupid in this country, so there's no desire to stop this for adults," Fine said. "Children, it's a whole different story. You can't, you know, you can't get a tattoo. You shouldn't be able to cut your breast off."

Hinkle said he would review things before issuing a ruling. He didn't offer a timeline but suggested he wanted to move quickly on the issue.

There is also a similar case in Alabama that's before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision in the higher court could impact what happens next in Florida.