Thursday, June 13, 2024

Federal Court Permanently Blocks Florida Law Restricting Health Care for Transgender Adults, Adolescents – GLAD

Must read

Federal Court Blocks First State Law Restricting Health Care for Transgender Adults; State of Florida Loses Federal Challenge as Court Blocks Law Targeting Adults and Adolescents

Ruling in Doe v. Ladapo, permanently blocks adult and minor health care restrictions in Florida SB 254 and finds that Florida unlawfully targeted transgender people, in challenge brought by GLAD, NCLR, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Southern Legal Counsel, and Lowenstein Sandler

June 11, 2024 (TALLAHASSEE) — A federal district court has permanently blocked Florida from enforcing a law that bans medical care for transgender adolescents and restricts it for transgender adults. The ruling in Doe v. Ladapo found that Florida SB 254 and the related Boards of Medicine (BOM) rules were motivated by disapproval of transgender people and violate the equal protection rights of transgender individuals and parents of transgender minors in Florida. Florida was the first state to pass a law restricting access to health care for transgender adults. Today’s ruling permanently blocks those restrictions as well as the ban on care for adolescents, which the Court preliminarily blocked last June.

In issuing its ruling the Court found the health care restrictions in SB 254 to be motivated unlawfully by disapproval of transgender people, not by science, writing:

“Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished. To paraphrase a civil-rights advocate from an earlier time, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

“In the meantime, the federal courts have a role to play in upholding the Constitution and laws. The State of Florida can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment—treatment with medications routinely provided to others with the state’s full approval so long as the purpose is not to support the patient’s transgender identity.

Florida restricted medical care for transgender people in 2023 along with enacting a host of other anti-transgender laws. In addition to completely banning medical care for transgender adolescents, Florida restricted health care even for transgender adults, marking the first time any state passed such an extreme law. 

At a three-day trial in December 2023, plaintiffs presented extensive expert testimony that these restrictions have no medical basis. The court heard testimony from experts in psychiatry, endocrinology, medical ethics, and pediatric medicine regarding the well-established standards for providing this medical care, the decades of evidence proving its safety and efficacy, and the severe harms caused  when care is denied.

Plaintiff parents also described how being able to obtain doctor-recommended care has benefitted their children and the suffering Florida’s ban has caused them. Adult Plaintiff Lucien Hamel testified that he has been unable to get the medical care he needs anywhere in Florida since SB 254 went into effect.

Jane Doe, on behalf of herself and her daughter Susan Doe (proceeding anonymously):

“This ruling means I won’t have to watch my daughter needlessly suffer because I can’t get her the care she needs. Seeing Susan’s fear about this ban has been one of the hardest experiences we’ve endured as parents. All we’ve wanted is to take that fear away and help her continue to be the happy, confident child she is now.”

Gloria Goe, on behalf of herself and her son Gavin Goe (proceeding anonymously):

“This ruling lifts a huge weight and worry from me and my family, knowing I can keep getting Gavin the care he needs and he can keep being the big-hearted, smiling kid he is now. I’m so grateful the court saw how this law prevented parents like me from taking care of our children.”

Lucien Hamel, on behalf of himself:

“I’m so relieved the court saw there is no medical basis for this law—it was passed just to target transgender people like me and try to push us out of Florida. This is my home. I’ve lived here my entire life. This is my son’s home. I can’t just uproot my family and move across the country. The state has no place interfering in people’s private medical decisions, and I’m relieved that I can once again get the healthcare that I need here in Florida.”

The plaintiffs in Doe v. Ladapo are represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Southern Legal Counsel (SLC), and Lowenstein Sandler LLP.

Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders:

“Today’s ruling is a huge win for transgender people and their families. It confirms that health care access must be based on principles of good medicine, not politics.  The court today found there is no legitimate purpose for the extraordinary restrictions Florida has put on transgender people’s ability to obtain needed medical care. The decision will no doubt bring huge sighs of relief across Florida by transgender people and those who love them.”

Shannon Minter, Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights:

”As today’s decision clearly holds, the Constitution does not permit Florida or other states to selectively deny medical care to transgender people. We are grateful to the court for protecting our clients and other transgender people in Florida from this dangerous law, and we hope this decision will deter other states from seeking to impose similar restrictions.”    

Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel:

“The federal court saw Florida’s transgender minor healthcare ban and adult restrictions for what they are—discriminatory measures that cannot survive constitutional review. Today’s ruling blocks the state of Florida’s cruel campaign to deny fundamental rights and basic healthcare to its transgender citizens. We are so proud of our brave plaintiffs, without whom we could not have achieved this victory for the state of Florida.”

Sarah Warbelow, Vice President of Legal, Human Rights Campaign Foundation:

“The state of Florida has shown blatant discriminatory intent toward transgender people, and today’s ruling makes clear that is not permissible. There is no sound reason to deprive people of the ability to make best-practice, medically necessary healthcare decisions for themselves—especially when the trade-off is the heartache and distress of children and parents.”

Thomas Redburn, Lowenstein Sandler LLP:

“The federal court recognized the severe harm to Floridians caused by the healthcare restrictions in SB 254 and the related Boards of Medicine rules. Today’s ruling affirms the principle that individuals should be able to make informed decisions about their own personal medical treatments without discrimination by the State.”

About Florida’s Ban on Transgender Medical Care

Florida’s minor transgender healthcare ban was first enacted in March 2023 through the adoption of rules by the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine, at the urging of the Governor, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, and the Florida Department of Health. SB 254, which was passed by the legislature, signed by the governor and took effect in May 2023, cemented into state law the ban on essential medical care for transgender minors, subject to a narrow continued-use exception for minors who had started treatment before the ban. SB 254 also created felony criminal and civil penalties for Florida medical providers.

Later, SB 254 added severe restrictions that effectively blocked access to essential medical care for transgender adults and transgender minors who would be eligible for the continued-use exception, including requiring that care be provided exclusively by physicians, barring telehealth, and requiring patients to complete unique, onerous and misleading consent forms.

The case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on December 13, 14, and 21. 

Additional information about the case, Doe v. Ladapo, is available at www.glad.org/ladapo 

Latest article