An activist holds a sign reading "We Love Our Trans Youth"

An activist holds a sign that reads "We Love Our Trans Youth" during a March 30, 2021 rally in Montgomery, Alabama.

(Photo: Julie Bennett via Getty Images)

'Huge Win in Florida' as Judge Strikes Down Gender-Affirming Care Ban

"Today's ruling blocks the state of Florida's cruel campaign to deny fundamental rights and basic healthcare to its transgender citizens," said one LGBTQ+ advocate.

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that key sections of Florida's ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors—which also limits adults seeking such care—are unconstitutional and that the Republican state lawmakers and GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis were acting with "anti-transgender animus" and not in the interest of public health when they approved the legislation.

"The state of Florida can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment—treatment with medications routinely provided to others with the state's full approval so long as the purpose is not to support the patient's transgender identity," Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division, wrote in his 105-page opinion.

"Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs, but they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender," Hinkle—an appointee of former Democratic President Bill Clinton—continued. "In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished."

"To paraphrase a civil rights advocate from an earlier time, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," he added, referring to a famous quote by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hinkle also struck down a provision of the law forcing adults seeking transition healthcare to meet with a doctor in person before beginning treatment.

One year ago, Hinkle temporarily blocked portions of the law prohibiting doctors from providing, and minors from receiving, so-called "puberty blockers" and other hormonal treatments, calling the proscription "purposeful discrimination" against transgender people.

Civil rights advocates cheered Tuesday's decision.

"Today's ruling striking down Florida's discriminatory restrictions on gender-affirming medical care is a huge victory for the transgender community and for the freedom of all Floridians and their families to make their own private medical decisions," Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith said in a statement.

"Despite the governor and his rubber-stamp GOP supermajority continuously stripping away our rights, the brave plaintiffs, legal experts, and judges have dealt another powerful blow to DeSantis' agenda of censorship, surveillance, and government intrusion into our personal healthcare decisions," Smith added.

Simone Chriss, director of the Southern Legal Counsel's Transgender Rights Initiative, said in a statement:

The federal court saw Florida's transgender minor healthcare ban and adult restrictions for what they are—discriminatory measures that cannot survive constitutional review. Today's ruling blocks the state of Florida's cruel campaign to deny fundamental rights and basic healthcare to its transgender citizens. We are so proud of our brave plaintiffs, without whom we could not have achieved this victory for the state of Florida.

DeSantis—a failed 2024 GOP presidential candidate who has centered waging what fans and foes alike have called a "war on woke"—signed the gender-affirming care ban into law in May 2023 as part of what one activist condemned as "the most extreme slate of anti-trans laws in modern history."

Among the legislation signed that day were the so-called "Don't Say They" law prohibiting transgender public school students and staff from sharing updated preferred pronouns; S.B. 1438, which bans minors from attending "adult live performances" like drag shows; and H.B. 1521, which empowers cisgender people to order transgender people to leave publicly available restrooms or face criminal trespass charges that could result in up to a year behind bars for refusal to comply.

A spokesperson for DeSantis toldThe New York Times after Tuesday's ruling that "there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children."

"These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children, and history will look back on this fad in horror," she added.

Lucien Hamel, an adult plaintiff in the case, said Hinkle's ruling brought relief.

"I can't just uproot my family and move across the country," Hamel said in a statement. "The state has no place interfering in people's private medical decisions, and I'm relieved that I can once again get the healthcare that I need here in Florida."

Plaintiff Jane Doe—the mother of 12-year-old transgender girl Susan Doe—asserted that the ruling "means I won't have to watch my daughter needlessly suffer because I can't get her the care she needs."

"Seeing Susan's fear about this ban has been one of the hardest experiences we've endured as parents," she said in a statement. "All we've wanted is to take that fear away and help her continue to be the happy, confident child she is now."

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