“Put Up or Shut Up”: A Federal Judge Tore Into Florida’s Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Minors

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In a preliminary injunction, the judge allowed three of the plaintiff’s children to receive care and pushed a constitutional challenge to the law.

A federal judge in Florida told politicians and backers of a new law rolling back gender-affirming care in the state to “put up” facts or “shut up.”

In a preliminary injunction filed from Tallahassee on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle blocked a state law that would that prohibit the prescription of puberty-blocking and other hormone-related therapies for minors from applying to three of seven minors included in the filed case. The 44-page injunction went beyond specifics, speaking directly to proponents of the new state law. “Do you acknowledge that there are individuals with actual gender identities opposite their natal sex, or do you not? ” Hinkle asked. “The elephant in the room should be noted at the outset. Gender identity is real.” 

Hinkle used the injunction to present a constitutional challenge to Florida’s law. In the text, he argues that the families are likely to prevail in their claims that the ban on care violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, as well as the Due Process Clause, which protects a parent’s right to control a child’s medical treatment. 

“I’m sure most any parent can imagine the sense of powerlessness that comes from being unable to do something as basic as get medical care for your child,” said Jane Doe, an anonymous parent, who is challenging the ban on behalf of herself and her daughter, Susan. “Today my entire family is breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we can now access the treatment that we know will keep Susan healthy and allow her to continue being the happy, confident child she has been.”

The lack of care, advocates say, can have life-threatening consequences. According to The Trevor Project, more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth, ages 13-24 in the U.S., seriously consider suicide each year, and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds. 

The action comes as Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis continues to attack transgender youth. At the ban signing ceremony, just a week before he announced his candidacy, DeSantis said that Florida will “remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy,” and that the law “will permanently outlaw the mutilation of minors.” Others are following similar playbooks, with 18 states banning the best practice medication and surgical care for transgender youth—five consider this care a felony.

The families are being represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Human Rights Campaign. In a joint statement following the injunction, they said, “The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive.” 

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