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Judge Blocks Florida’s Gender-Affirming Care Ban for Transgender Youth

The state has vowed to appeal the ruling, which will likely head to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender children is unconstitutional, invalidating a state law and various other boards of health rules restricting access to such treatments.

A law passed by Florida’s Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year banned all health providers in the state from providing gender-affirming care treatments to trans youth. Such treatments are often described as life-saving by those who receive them, and have been shown by several studies to lessen rates of depression and suicidality among trans kids.

The lawsuit against the statute was brought forward by advocacy groups and three Florida families with transgender children who were detrimentally affected by the implementation of the ban. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida blocked enforcement of the law last summer, noting that it was likely unconstitutional and passed in part due to lawmakers’ transphobia.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Hinkle invalidated the law altogether, as well as regulations crafted by Florida’s boards of health that were based on the law. In addition to restrictions on health care for trans youth, Hinkle’s order invalidated regulations on care for transgender adults, as Florida officials had stipulated that only physicians, not other health care providers, could provide gender-affirming treatments.

Said Hinkle in his order:

Florida has adopted a statute and rules that ban gender-affirming care for minors even when medically appropriate. The ban is unconstitutional.

Hinkle specifically noted that Florida’s ban only prohibits the treatments from being used to treat transgender patients — cisgender children who need puberty blockers, for example, are allowed to utilize such treatment, while transgender children are not.

“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,” Hinkle wrote in his order.

“Gender identity is real” Hinkle went on, noting that “those whose gender identity does not match their natal sex often suffer gender dysphoria” that can be treated with gender-affirming care.

Hinkle recognized that, “for minors, this means evaluation and treatment by a multidisciplinary team,” which can include mental health therapy and, when appropriate, puberty blockers and hormone treatment.

The judge noted that his order couldn’t correct bigoted sentiments, but could rectify bigoted government actions against transgender youth in Florida. “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 wrote.

He further predicted that, in time, “discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished.”

DeSantis’s Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern issued a blistering transphobic statement in response to the ruling, vowing that the administration would “continue to fight to ensure children are not chemically or physically mutilated in the name of radical, new age ‘gender ideology,'” and falsely asserting that gender-affirming care for trans youth is a “fad.”

“We will appeal this ruling,” Redfern added.

It’s unclear what will happen when the appeal heads to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, as that body has issued conflicting rulings regarding transgender rights in recent months. In January, a three-judge panel of that court issued a ruling allowing a gender-affirming care ban in Alabama to take effect, staying a lower court’s injunction on its state law that had previously been ordered.

But a different panel of judges from the 11th Circuit Court issued a pro-trans ruling in May, deciding that transgender health insurance exclusions for state and local employees violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

It’s possible, although unlikely, that the appeals court will reevaluate its previous ruling that a gender-affirming care ban could remain in place pending an appeal in the Florida case, depending on which judges are selected to hear the appeal.

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