Injunction sought against new curbs on gender-confirming care for adults

Federal judge has already blocked restrictions targeting minors

By: - July 25, 2023 1:58 pm

Protesters gathered in the Capitol’s Fourth Floor Rotunda on April 19, 2023, to protest passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation. Credit: Michael Moline

Four transgender Floridians have asked a federal judge to block enforcement of a new law sharply restricting gender-confirming care for adults, arguing its provisions are irrational and not justified medically.

The request comes in a lawsuit originally targeting legal restrictions against transgender care for minors but expanded recently to cover denial of care to adults.

“The adult plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their equal protection claim. SB 254 [the law at issue] singles out transgender individuals and creates arbitrary, harmful, and medically unjustified restrictions that deter them from obtaining needed medical care,” the motion reads.

“Defendants cannot meet their burden to justify this disparate treatment. SB 254’s targeting of transgender adults is not substantially related to any important governmental interest. SB 254’s restrictions on transgender adults’ ability to obtain care, and those in the informed consent forms, are not even rational. Rather than fostering any interests in health or safety, they undermine them,” it adds.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo is shown with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sept. 21, 2021. Credit: Michael Moline

Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Human Rights Campaign are representing the plaintiffs challenging the restrictions. The defendants named are Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, the Florida Board of Medicine and its members, the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine and its members, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, and each of Florida’s 20 state attorneys.

The law says that only medical doctors can prescribe gender-affirming care and that the patient must be present in the doctor’s office — use of telehealth is not allowed, potentially meaning long road trips for patients. Nurse practitioners typically handled these cases but are banned from doing so under the law under pain of felony penalties. Patients must sign official informed consent statements to undergo treatment.

Preliminary injunction

“Rather than protecting transgender patients, these restrictions intentionally make it difficult or impossible for transgender adults to receive needed medical care, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in a written statement.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction on June 6 blocking denial of gender-confirming case for minors, chiefly puberty blockers and hormone therapy, ruling the evidence supported their medical necessity and safety and noting at the time, “The elephant in the room should be noted at the outset. Gender identity is real. The record makes this clear.”

Hinkle concluded that the state’s arguments in favor of the restrictions, including that they are experimental and can cause secondary harm, were pretexual. “The great weight of medical authority supports these treatments,” he wrote.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys distributed comments from their clients in a press release on Tuesday.

“I have been following an established health care plan for years, but because of SB 254 my care has suddenly stopped and I can no longer see the provider I trust and who knows my medical history. I’m terrified because stopping my care is already having a negative impact on my health and on my family,” Lucien Hamel said.

“My physician had to cancel my procedure because of SB 254. I can’t even schedule an appointment with a physician because they are all afraid of this law, even though medical providers have determined this care is medically necessary for me. I’m frustrated and scared about what will happen if I can’t get the care I need, Rebecca Cruz Evia said.

“I wake up every day feeling like I’m in a nightmare. SB 254 has canceled medically necessary treatment prescribed for me by my medical team,” said Kai Pope. “As a physician myself, SB 254 alarms me not only because of the devastating harm it is causing me and other transgender Floridians, but because of the disruption it is causing to our health care system.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.