Florida legislators are backing a permanent ban on transgender care for minors, but it appears the battle may soon shift to a federal courtroom.
The House and Senate — voting largely along party lines — agreed to pass legislation that would enshrine the ban into state law after the state’s medical board agreed to impose the restriction on doctors last year. The bill will next head to the Governor’s desk.
But the state’s existing ban is already being challenged. In a statement late Thursday, the groups representing seven families who filed the lawsuit — Southern Legal Counsel, LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign — said they would ask a federal judge to take “swift action” to block SB 254.
“This exacerbates the state of emergency for parents who are already being forced to watch their kids suffer rather than get them the effective health care they need and that will allow them to thrive,” the groups said.
The announcement came a few hours after the final bill passed the House by an 83-28 vote.
The House had previously taken the Senate’s bill on transgender care and amended its version of the proposal onto it instead. Unlike the original Senate bill, the House wanted to ban insurance companies from covering gender-affirming care, regardless of the insured’s age. The House bill would have required minors with gender dysphoria to come off of hormones by Dec. 31, 2023.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, though, said she wasn’t comfortable with those provisions.
On Thursday, the Senate took up SB 254, tacked on a lengthy amendment to the bill and sent it back to the House for action. The amendment contained the original Senate version of the bill, which did not include a ban on private insurance companies from reimbursing for the care.
But the amendment did contain modifications to the Senate bill that passed the chamber last month.
For instance, the amendment would require the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine to adopt emergency rules within 60 days of the bill becoming law that lay out a path for minors currently in treatment. The amendment also would require the boards to take into consideration whether to mandate minor patients be seen by board-certified psychiatrists or psychologists.
The initial bill didn’t contain the counseling requirement and it didn’t have a timeline for the board to publish the emergency rules.
Additionally, the amendment deleted a requirement that hospitals attest they are not performing gender-affirming surgeries on minors.
Democrats still opposed the ban, with Rep. Kelly Skidmore calling it “a better version of a bad bill.” They railed at Republicans and said they were unfairly targeting transgender youth.
Republicans pushed back, contending they wanted to protect children. The bill sponsor, Rep. Randy Fine, accused those of backing transgender care for minors as being members of a “cult.” He asserted that some medical professionals were making money on those wanting to transition.
“Trans people are not evil,” Fine said. “They are the victims of those who are.”
In passing SB 254, the Legislature agreed to codify in statute many policies that Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted through his broad administrative power.
The two medical boards had already passed rules that banned minors from receiving gender-affirming care. And the Agency for Health Care Administration had altered its Medicaid rules to preclude coverage for gender-affirming care after Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issued guidance recommending against allowing minors to receive the benefits.