Florida House debate on transcare bill includes God, sex and insurance

'I believe that everyone on this Earth believes in God. Even the atheists; they just think that's who they are.'

God, sex and health insurance.

Those were just some of the issues representatives honed in on during the debate over legislation (SB 254) that would ban minors from receiving gender-affirming care and places obstacles in the way of adults receiving the care.

The House voted Wednesday to pass SB 254 after amending the contents of its original bill (HB 1421) onto the Senate bill. Because of the amendment, the bill must go back to the Senate for consideration.

There are three significant differences between the original House and Senate bills.

The House bill bans insurance companies from covering transgender care. The original Senate bill did not.

The House bill requires minors currently in treatment to stop taking puberty blockers or other hormones by Dec. 31, 2023. The original Senate bill allowed the state’s medical boards to decide the future of the care for minors already being treated with hormones.

The House bill precludes people from changing their birth certificates. The Senate bill did not.

Democrats filed 26 amendments aimed at removing those and other provisions from SB 254, but all of the amendments were shut down.

House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters Wednesday that the House chose to amend its work product onto the Senate bill knowing that the move meant it would be “bouncing” the bill back to the Senate.

The House and Senate have tried to avoid bouncing high-priority bills between the chambers this Session, but Renner said the Senate sent the bill over to the House “early” which precluded them from finding an agreement in advance of the House floor debate.

“This is our position. I think as Rep. (RandyFine said this is a very serious issue. This is an issue that we’re going to look back on as Rep. (Ralph) Massullo said, with great regret because those that are ahead of us in Europe are backpedaling very, very quickly away from this issue,” Renner said.

“We are forever destroying the lives of young children that if they make a different decision later down the road they can never bring their bodies back to what they were before. And so we’re proud of this legislation. We’re proud of our bill but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a landing spot with the Senate.”

Lawmakers delivered impassioned speeches ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

There is a rift in the House chamber on the existence and treatment of gender dysphoria. But the bill also impacts how businesses operate, a point that Rep. Hillary Cassel stressed during her debate.

One portion in the bill bans the use of state funds to provide or reimburse for gender-affirming and gender-conforming care. The bill also bans people acting on behalf of a state agency, subdivision, or institution under contract or “other agreement or relationship” from spending money on reimbursing for gender-affirming care.

Because corporations are considered people, Cassel said, the bill impacts Florida-based Fortune 1000 companies that currently offer trans-inclusive health care: Office Depot, Darden, Raymond James, Tech Data, and HSN. All those companies, she said, currently offer some transgender health care benefits to their employees.

“Let’s not forget we, as the Legislature, use Office Deport for our supplies. This bill impacts that,” Cassel said.

The bill also would impact out-of-state companies that residents do business with, including American Express, Boeing, Papa Johns, Lowe’s, Shell Oil, Tesla, Tractor Supply Company, and Walmart. All of those companies have top ratings from the Human Resource Commission for their inclusivity and offering benefit packages that recognize the LGBTQ community, Cassel said.

“So when you vote on this bill, it’s not just protecting children. Because it actually impacts adults, which I’ve yet to hear anybody recognize,” Cassel said. “It’s also impacting our corporations.”

Additionally, the bill bans HMOs and insurance policies from covering gender-affirming care. But there’s no requirement in the bill for companies to return any premiums collected to date or redirect any of the collected premium to mental health benefits instead.

Cassel said if legislators want to mandate how insurance carriers operate, legislators should be willing to pass a requirement forcing companies that write automobile insurance — the most profitable line of business — to sell homeowners policies as well.

“That will actually solve Floridians’ problems,” she said.

Meanwhile, in his closing arguments, bill co-sponsor Massullo said there is a rift between members as to whether there is a deterioration of culture. Those who believe in banning the care are allegedly homophobes, misogynists and “religious right-wing extremists.”

Massullo though defended his faith in God and further declared, “I believe that everyone on this Earth believes in God. Even the atheists; they just think that’s who they are. We need to stop and think a little bit (about) what we can do to change our culture. And so I actually believe it’s our duty. It’s something we need to address because there’s evil in our society. … And that evil is so insidious that we fail to recognize it truly is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And it’s going after our most vulnerable population, our children,” Massullo said.

A dermatologist, Massullo said gender dysphoria is a psychological condition that is being treated physiologically. He also denied that the hormone blockers are reversible saying side effects include irreversible bone damage and brain tumors. He also said the hormones can leave people sexually dissatisfied.

“The very people (who) have advocated for this type of treatment are finding that those individuals cannot have sexual satisfaction. And I’m not going to use the word that starts with the letter ‘O.’ Because you all understand and know what that is,” Massullo said. “But they can’t achieve that. Now think about that just for a minute. Because it’s terrible.”

The ban on transgender care for minors was one of three bills dealing with transgender people that the House debated over the last two days. House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said it was “transgender erasure week” on the House floor.

In addition to passing SB 254, the House passed a bill (HB 1521) which would place restrictions on where transgender people can use the restroom in Florida. It’s not clear how that bill will fare in the Senate.

The House also gave final passage to a bill (SB 1438) that punishes people and venues that admit kids to adult-oriented shows with “lewd” content. That measure is ready for the Governor’s signature.

“We understand exactly what this is about. It’s about erasing the transgender community and that sort of hatred has no place in the state of Florida,” Driskell said repeating the caucus’ belief and platform that “every citizen deserves the freedom to be healthly, prosperous and safe.”

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


  • Baptist Snake Handler Adelbert 👍

    April 19, 2023 at 10:10 pm

    They’ve made the word God synonymous with GOP. Founding fathers believed in freedom of religion… meaning the state shouldn’t persecute someone because of their religion. You can cram into a building, swing incense, and tell lies about the origins of the universe all you want to. But what the founding fathers didn’t intend is for people to impose their religious beliefs on other people using law. This type of behavior will not stand, and we don’t want to hear about attempts to curb it being persecution or any other myriad of conspiracy theories. Already they’ve put a confidence man and far right whacko into the Whitehouse. They must not be allowed to do this ever again.

  • Sqoo

    April 20, 2023 at 2:35 am

    This is terrifying. They got a taste of blood and now they’re in a frenzy. No one is safe.

  • SteveHC

    April 20, 2023 at 6:15 am

    Ralph Massullo is a POLITICIAN #1, a religious right-wing zealot #2, and a freaking DERMATOLOGIST #3. Not a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, not an internist. Moron yes, expert on gender dysphoria no. He should stick to his original day job, stop trying to impose his crazy religious beliefs on others and otherwise drop his anti-American, truly evil ways in politics.

  • TonyN

    April 20, 2023 at 8:45 am

    This is a blatant unconstitutional bill. Florida can’t mandate what companies offer their employees nationwide aside from them ripping my husbands PRIVATE insurance away from him that we have paid into for years. (He has been transitioned for 21 years)

    We are making plans to leave this state in the near future. We both have jobs we love, a house we’ve fixed up, friends who support us…only to be screwed over by this group of fascists starting with our so-called “governor” and that fat porker Randy Fine

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 20, 2023 at 4:55 pm

    Some say everyone believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but others grow up and realize fairy tales are just that: fairy tales.

  • Brian

    April 21, 2023 at 7:58 am

    Glad the majority here in Fl standing up against the super minority of letting children destroy their bodies because of a mental disorder. When schizophrenics think they’re the president or anorexic people want lipo suction when they are 90 pounds we don’t allow it because it is a disorder. Next, kids wanting to be cats or wolves will be ok to have surgeries to make them look like the animals they want to be. Mental illness folks

  • BJohnM

    May 2, 2023 at 1:51 pm

    So, Florida House Rep. Randy Fine has his knickers all in a wad over Transgender people. In a tweet, he refers to it as “sexual mutilation.” There’s a video of him ranting on the House floor about, “no good reason for cutting off healthy body parts.” OK, maybe (stay with me here), there’s some cognitive dissonance in having a Jewish man ranting about sexual mutilation and “cutting off healthy body parts.” I wonder if he ever stopped to think about that?

    And call me crazy, but Massulo should consider reading his Bible. If he did, he’d find that one of the first Christian converts outside Jesus’ orbit was a Eunuch.

Comments are closed.


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