The parents of three transgender children in Florida are trying to get a federal judge to block a new law that bans gender-affirming care for minors, a signature policy of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as he nears his presidential campaign.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Friday heard arguments from an attorney representing the three families in a case that argues they are being stripped of the right to make medical decisions for their children.
DeSantis has curtailed transgender medical treatments for minors in the state — often describing the issue in terms that are at odds with the nation’s major medical associations — as he leans into cultural divides that animate the Republican base ahead of his anticipated presidential run.
Florida’s law, signed this week by DeSantis, prohibits the prescription of puberty-blocking, hormone and hormone antagonist therapies to treat gender dysphoria in minors. It also bans gender-affirming medical procedures or surgeries for minors.
The law also bans the use of state money for gender-affirming care and places new restrictions on adults seeking treatment. Among those restrictions are a requirement that people meet face to face with a doctor — not a nurse or nurse practitioner — and not through telemedicine. Private organizations that provide such care could be risking any state funding they receive.
Transgender medical treatment for children and teenagers has increasingly been subject to restrictions or outright bans from Republicans across the country.
At least 17 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, including Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and Oklahoma has agreed to not enforce its ban while opponents seek a temporary court order blocking it. Several other states are considering bills this year to restrict or ban care.
The treatments have been available in the United States for more than a decade and are endorsed by major medical associations as appropriate care for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Guidelines say surgery generally should be reserved for those ages 18 and older.
Treatment typically begins with an evaluation for the distress caused when gender identity doesn’t match a person’s assigned sex. With parental consent, persistent dysphoria can be treated with hormones, but typically not until age 16.
The parents did not appear in court Friday. It is unclear when the judge could issue a ruling on their request to block the law. Attorney Jennifer Levi, said the law is discriminatory against transgender people and hopes the judge moves quickly.
“My hope is that what it means for these adolescents is that they will very quickly be able to be moving forward in getting the care that they need, but the judge is going to set the timeframe for that,” Levi said.