Students protesting on the 5th floor of the Florida Capitol Building. Mar. 3, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown
The Florida Senate Tuesday approved a wholesale prohibition on allowing transgender minors to receive gender affirming care in the form of hormone replacement therapies, puberty blockers, or any surgeries with the goal of “sex-reassignment” for a minor.
The bill, SB 254, was approved by the Senate Tuesday largely on party lines, with Republicans in favor of the measure except for one.
The Republican ‘no’ vote came from Sen. Gayle Harrel, who’s long been active in health policy and health appropriations in the Legislature. She did not explain her position during debate on the bill Tuesday. Harrel represents counties on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
In fact, only the bill sponsor, Sen. Clay Yarborough, explained his support for the legislation during debate before the GOP-controlled Senate approved the measure. He claimed that gender affirming care for minors are “experimental,” and that “we need to let kids be kids.”
“As lawmakers we do have to draw the line when drastic life altering treatments and surgeries are being prescribed for children, sometimes very young children,” Yarborough added. The bill passed 27-12.
Democratic Senators believe the measure is discriminatory to transgender youths, as some of the medical procedures would be available to non-transgender people.
Sen. Tracie Davis, a Democrat who represents part of Duval County, raised the point:
“We have gender affirming care and we don’t have to think about it, but there are things like Viagra, breast augmentation, hair transplants and other treatments that already exist for people — but for those of us who are not transgender, it’s just called healthcare.”
LGBTQ+ advocates see SB 254 as just part of a legislative attack on transgender Floridians. (The Senate will also soon consider a bill, also sponsored by Yarborough, that advocates fear will ban drag shows in Florida.)
The bill makes exceptions in the case of genetic disorders of sexual development.
It also grants state courts temporary emergency jurisdiction over children if they are at risk of or are being subjected to the “provision of sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures.” That would mean that children could potentially be removed from their homes if they are simply suspected of receiving gender-affirming care. Yarborough is a Republican represents Nassau and part of Duval counties.
“Honestly, this is persecution — plain and simple,” Sen. Tina Polsky said in opposition of the bill. She is a Democrat who represents areas in South Florida.
Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida, said in a written statement following the bill’s passage in the Senate:
“SB 254 is an egregious attack on Florida children who have a right to safe healthcare just like anyone else. It is an extreme example of government overreach into private medical decisions that will inflict harm on individuals experiencing gender dysphoria and prevent them from accessing the health care they need.
“Parents, not politicians, know what is best for their own children,” Gross said.
The House of Representatives have their own version of the bill, HB 1421, which is different than the Senate bill passed Tuesday. The two chambers will have to come together and agree on the same bill language before the measure could go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for consideration.
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