Judge Refuses to Halt Florida’s Trans Treatment Law: Calls for More Orderly Approach

Federal Judge Declines to Halt New Florida Law on Transgender Healthcare

A federal judge, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, has made a decision not to block a newly enacted law in Florida that aims to make access to hormone therapy and surgeries more challenging for transgender adults. However, Judge Hinkle did note that he could issue a narrowly tailored injunction to ensure care for individual plaintiffs if detailed medical records are provided.

The law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and backed by Governor Ron DeSantis, contains several provisions that make it more difficult for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria to receive appropriate care. It requires patients to sign informed consent forms created by state medical boards and only allows physicians to order hormone therapy, explicitly excluding nurse practitioners from doing so. Additionally, the law prohibits the use of telehealth for new prescriptions.

While the law prevents doctors from ordering gender-affirming care for children, it does permit minors who are already receiving such treatment to continue, subject to certain conditions.

Parents of transgender children initially filed a lawsuit challenging the restrictions, leading to Judge Hinkle blocking a ban on puberty blockers and hormones for treating children diagnosed with gender dysphoria. However, this decision is currently being appealed by the state. The lawsuit was subsequently revised to include several adults as plaintiffs, arguing that the new restrictions have created unnecessary barriers to care and impose medically unsupported requirements on transgender individuals. The lawsuit claims that the state has caused a crisis in the availability of care for trans adults through the law and the rules enacted by the state Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine.

During a two-hour hearing on Friday, the plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction to block the parts of the law that pertain to trans adults, as well as class-action certification. Jennifer Levi, an attorney for the plaintiffs, informed Judge Hinkle that the informed consent forms have resulted in the termination of care for transgender adults, including the cancellation of surgeries and hormone therapy. Levi argued that the forms are misleading and contain incorrect and irrelevant information.

Judge Hinkle acknowledged the lack of clarity in the forms, stating that they were “abysmally drafted.” Concerns were raised about the state’s intention to discourage people seeking gender-affirming care, and Hinkle questioned why the forms seemed to cut against the state’s position.

When asked about the potential harm that would be caused to plaintiffs if he did not block the law, Levi argued that patients are currently suffering in significant ways. Some plaintiffs have had their surgeries canceled, while others have run out of testosterone or estrogen.

Judge Hinkle clarified that the law does not prevent doctors from performing surgeries but expressed an understanding that clinics are closing due to restrictions placed by the Legislature. However, he made it clear that he would not issue an order to change that situation.

The state’s attorney, Mohammad Jazil, defended the requirement that only doctors can order hormone treatment, citing the significant unknowns in the treatment of transgender patients. Jazil argued that determining where to draw the line and who gets to decide that is an issue that the state is entitled to address. He maintained that caution remains crucial and the state should be able to improve the level of care provided.

Florida is among several Republican-led states attempting to ban gender-affirming care for children. Governor DeSantis has highlighted the issue, often referring to transgender treatments as “child mutilation.” The state’s administration previously prohibited Medicaid reimbursement for gender-affirming care across all age groups, a decision that Judge Hinkle has previously ruled as unconstitutional.

Judge Hinkle mentioned during the hearing that plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging similar bans in other parts of the country have succeeded at the district court level, but appeals are ongoing. The recent decision by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld an Alabama law banning gender-affirming care for minors, may complicate the legal challenge in Florida. However, Levi argued that Florida’s restrictions on adults go even further than other state laws that focused on care for children, suggesting that Florida intended to discourage individuals from pursuing transgender treatments.

Judge Hinkle did not provide a ruling on class-action certification during the recent hearing and stated that he would not issue an injunction to block the telehealth restriction or the requirement for physicians. He expressed concern about haphazard treatment practices and indicated that he would not order the state to step aside without more information.

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