A federal judge in Florida issued a scathing assessment Tuesday of the state’s ban on gender transition care for minors, asserting in a ruling that the families with transgender children who sued the state are “likely to prevail on their claim that the prohibition is unconstitutional.”
Judge Robert L. Hinkle of US District Court in Tallahassee ruled specifically that three transgender children can be prescribed puberty blockers despite the new state law, which also adds new hurdles for adults who seek similar care.
But as legal challenges have been mounting to new restrictions on transition care that have been enacted across the country, Hinkle’s ruling exemplifies the kind of chilly reception the bans may receive from judges.
“Gender identity is real,” Hinkle wrote, adding that “proper treatment” can include mental health therapy followed by puberty blockers and hormone treatments. “Florida has adopted a statute and rules that prohibit these treatments even when medically appropriate.”
The judge issued a preliminary injunction in response to an emergency request by the families of the three children. They and others had sued the state of Florida in March over an administrative ban on gender transition care for minors, and then widened their suit to take in the new law after Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed it May 17.
The plaintiffs had urged the judge specifically to block one part of the law that bars doctors and nurses from prescribing or administering transition-related medication to children, and another part that exposes medical providers to criminal liability and professional discipline for doing so.
The injunction granted by Hinkle does not apply to other aspects of the far-reaching legislation, which also bars gender-transition surgery for minors, alters child custody statutes to treat transition care as equivalent to child abuse, and forbids the use of state funds to pay for transition care.
Even so, the judge wrote dismissively of the arguments offered by the state, calling them “a laundry list of purported justifications for the statute and rules” that were “largely pretextual and, in any event, do not call for a different result.”
Concerning the state’s claim that professional associations that endorsed gender transition care had done so for political reasons, the judge wrote: “If ever a pot called a kettle black, it is here. The statute and the rules were an exercise in politics, not good medicine.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs’ families interpreted the ruling Tuesday as possibly extending to other transgender minors throughout the state.
The Florida Department of Health declined to comment on the ruling, citing the continuing litigation.
More than a dozen states have adopted bans or other restrictions on transition-related care for children and teenagers in the past year. Proponents say the bans protect children from medical treatments they see as harmful and unproven. But that stance defies much of the US medical establishment, which views the care as medically necessary and beneficial for some children who have gender dysphoria.