Families challenge Florida transgender treatment rules in court

In the meantime, Florida lawmakers working to make those rules official state law

Four families filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging rules adopted by Florida medical boards that prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming treatment such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender children, arguing the rules intrude on “parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their adolescent children.”

Included in the lawsuit are families from Duval and St. Johns counties.

The lawsuit is 28 pages, and the children represented in it are between 9 and 14 years old.

Florida’s surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, and the 12 members of the medical boards are named as defendants in the lawsuit that claims the new rules are unconstitutional and violate parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children.

The Florida Board of Medicine’s rule went into effect on March 16 and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine’s rule will go into effect Tuesday.

Lawyers representing the families in the lawsuit say they plan to seek a preliminary injunction to block the rules from being enforced while the litigation process plays out.

“The transgender medical bans do nothing to protect the health or well-being of minors. To the contrary, the transgender medical bans undermine the health and well-being of transgender minors by denying them essential medical care,” lawyers for the plaintiffs argued in the 26-page complaint filed in the federal Northern District of Florida.

Under the rules, children diagnosed with gender dysphoria will be allowed to continue taking the drugs if they were receiving the treatments when the regulations took effect. But trans children who hadn’t begun taking the drugs are ineligible. The federal government clinically defines gender dysphoria as “significant distress that a person may feel when sex or gender assigned at birth is not the same as their identity.”

According to the lawsuit, the Florida rules will have a negative effect on the young plaintiffs by interrupting various phases of transitioning. As an example, Susan Doe, 11, has been “living fully as a girl” since kindergarten but has not started taking medical treatment because she hasn’t reached puberty. The families are using pseudonyms to protect the children’s privacy.

In the meantime, the new rules were debated during a long meeting this week, which had mixed reviews, and there was strong debate on a proposal to enshrine in state law the medical boards’ transgender treatment bans for children. The bill also includes treatment limitations for adults.

The proposed bill would expand limitations on transgender health care access by prohibiting telehealth appointments for transgender adults and giving only doctors, not nurse practitioners, the ability to write prescriptions for adults’ hormone replacement treatment.

Bill sponsor Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, said the measure is intended to protect children and parents.

“Every single person was created with extraordinary, incredible value and has a unique purpose, and this has been true about you since before you were born and you can’t change it,” Yarborough said.

But Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat who said his granddaughter is trans, urged other members of the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee to oppose the bill.

“I hear this and I wonder, why are we doing this again? Why are we going after children? When you see a child grow … and develop and you support that child. You give that love to that child 100 percent. And does my love change because the child is transgender? Not one bit. It goes more. Why? Because you want to show support. You want to encourage a child, what they dream of, what they want to do,” Torres said.

The committee voted 13-6 along party lines to approve the measure. A House committee on Wednesday advanced a more far-reaching measure (HB 1421) that would, among other things, ban health-insurance companies from covering gender-reassignment surgeries for adults.

This all comes after the Georgia Senate advanced a bill to the Georgia House that would ban most gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapies for people under 18.

Georgia’s proposal would still allow doctors to prescribe medicines to block puberty.

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