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DeSantis Signs Bill to Allow State to Take Trans Kids Away From Their Families

Another bill signed the same day requires trans adults to get permission from state boards for gender-affirming care.

People participate in the 15th annual Miami Beach Pride Celebration parade on April 16, 2023 in Miami Beach, Florida.

While gleefully tossing Sharpies into a crowd at an evangelical school on Wednesday, far right Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a series of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills, including one horrifying bill that allows the state to temporarily take trans children away from their families if they’re receiving or are planning to receive gender-affirming care.

S.B. 254, which passed the Florida legislature earlier this month, allows trans children to be taken by the state, giving courts the power of “temporary emergency jurisdiction” to modify out-of-state custody agreements in certain circumstances. The bill classifies gender-affirming care as “serious physical harm,” allowing a dissenting parent to request a warrant to receive physical custody of a trans child if they are undergoing or “threatened,” as the bill says, with gender-affirming care.

The bill further places restrictions on gender-affirming care for trans children and adults. Medical facilities will have to pledge to the state Department of Health that they will not provide gender-affirming care to children or refer children to receive it, or else risk losing their medical license. It bars children from receiving gender-affirming care like puberty blockers, and makes it a third-degree felony to provide gender-affirming care to a trans child.

Access to gender-affirming care for adults will be severely restricted under the bill. Only physicians, not health experts like nurse practitioners or physicians’ assistants, would be allowed to perform gender-affirming care.

This is already having widespread impacts; at least one Florida clinic that provides gender-affirming care in the state is staffed only by nurse practitioners, leaving the clinic’s patients in limbo, while Planned Parenthood is canceling adults’ appointments for gender-affirming care in the state.

If a trans adult wishes to access gender-affirming care, they will have to obtain written consent by two state “oversight” boards whose members are appointed by DeSantis under the new law.

The use of telehealth for gender-affirming care for trans people, as well as the use of state funds for gender-affirming care, is also banned under the bill.

Opponents of the law have called it an “abduction” bill allowing for the “legal kidnapping” of trans kids that will almost certainly lead to death for people now unable to access the life-saving care, which is recommended by every major medical association in the U.S. Some providers say their patients are moving out of the state due to the restrictions.

“I would say free states don’t ban health care,” state Sen. Lori Berman (D) said during debate on the bill last month. “This bill is wrong on the way it attacks transgender adults, wrong on the way it attacks parents’ rights to raise their children, and wrong on how it puts medical professionals at risk.”

In a bill-signing ceremony in front of an applauding crowd at the Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, DeSantis signed several other bills in one of the most sweeping legislative attacks on LGBTQ rights yet seen in the GOP’s current attacks. One bill attacks drag shows, giving the DeSantis administration the power to take away the licenses of establishments if they allow children into a drag show. Another restricts faculty and students from using personal pronouns of their choice in public schools, saying that every school must implement hateful anti-trans policies declaring that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait.”

Another bill signed Wednesday bans trans people from using changing rooms or bathrooms that match their gender identity in public buildings, including those in public schools and universities. The law makes it a first-degree misdemeanor for a trans person to not leave a bathroom if asked by a government employee to do so — a charge that can lead to up to a year in prison.

Added up, these bills amount to an attempt to legislate away trans peoples’ ability to exist in the state.

“This isn’t about disagreeing on issues. We aren’t all expected to think the same things or make the same decisions about how to live our lives or how to raise our children,” wrote legal expert Chris Geidner for Rolling Stone. “This is about his using the law to take away fundamental choices that we all should be free to make for ourselves. And in the latest attacks, DeSantis and his ilk are staking out an even more extremist position — criminalizing certain choices, turning fundamental freedoms into potential prison sentences.”

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