Florida Legislature Sends Extreme Gender-Affirming Care Ban to Governor’s Desk

by HRC Staff

Tallahassee, Florida – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, condemns Florida legislators for sending an extreme gender affirming care ban, SB 254, to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk for signature or veto. The House passed SB 254 today 83-28.

Even among the crowded field of extreme and damaging bans on best practice, age-appropriate health care, this bill stands out as particularly mean-spirited. SB 254 is an extreme, unprecedented attack on transgender people, their health care, and the families and health care providers who care for them.

SB 254 would give Florida the unprecedented ability to strip parental rights from parents who support their transgender children. This bill would penalize providers by inflicting criminal penalties (including felony penalties) on providers who give gender-affirming care; it would take licenses away from those providers; and it would prohibit Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care for transgender youth or adults. It would also forbid public funds, including those of a public university, public hospital, city or county, and Medicaid, from being used to provide benefits that include gender-affirming care – for transgender people of all ages. And – uniquely – it allows the state to use gender-affirming care or the “risk” of such care for a child as a reason to give Florida family courts exceptional jurisdiction to set aside another state’s custody determination.

This extreme ban contradicts guidelines recommended by every major medical association – representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

In response, Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel released the following statement:

“SB 254 is extraordinarily dangerous and extreme in a year full of extreme, discriminatory legislation. This bill doesn’t even pretend to be responsible public policy - instead, it attacks the ability of people of all ages to access medically-necessary health care simply because those people are transgender; it prevents parents from being able to access best-practice, potentially life-saving health care supported by the entire American medical establishment on behalf of their children; it prevents health care providers from delivering best-practice medical care; and it even threatens to overturn out-of-state custody determinations. If Governor DeSantis signs this bill, he will be disrespecting the United States Constitution as well as the rule of law, not to mention transgender Floridians, their families, and their medical care providers. Many families are making plans to leave the state to protect their children and get them the care they need to stay alive. The Human Rights Campaign is committed to doing everything in our power to fight back against these discriminatory bills and give LGBTQ+ children the futures they deserve.”

Last month, the President of HRC Kelley Robinson held a roundtable discussion with Equality Florida – the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's LGBTQ+ community – teachers, parents, and students to slam Gov. DeSantis and Florida legislators for advancing a slate of hateful anti-LGBTQ+ bills and proposals. HRC also deployed mobile billboards at the State Capitol, the Governor’s mansion, the Pride Festival in Tallahassee, and South Beach and took out a full page ad in the Miami Herald slamming DeSantis for his attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.

Acting at the behest of the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine also adopted a politically motivated and discriminatory rule that denies age-appropriate gender-affirming care to Florida's transgender youth. The rule (64B8-9.019) was filed with the Florida Department of State on February 24, 2023 and became effective on March 16, 2023. HRC is one of several organizations representing Florida families challenging the state’s ban on medically necessary healthcare for their transgender children and filed a motion asking the court to halt the ban while their case proceeds. Parents told the federal district court in their motion for a preliminary injunction that the ban is causing their children significant harm through canceled doctors appointments and denials of treatment.

So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 220 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.

This year, HRC is tracking:

  • More than 125 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 13 have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Dakota, and Montana

  • More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,

  • More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 45 anti-drag performance bills.

In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10% of these efforts succeeded. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law.

More than 300 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being proposed in states across the country. Major employers in tech, manufacturing, hospitality, health care, retail, and other sectors are joining with a unified voice to say discrimination is bad for business and to call on lawmakers to abandon these efforts. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas.

According to the latest data this year from PRRI, support for LGBTQ+ rights is on the rise in Florida and nationwide: 80% of Florida residents support nondiscrimination protections, and 66% of Florida residents oppose refusal of service on religious grounds. About eight in ten Americans (80%) favor laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. This reflects a dramatic increase in the proportion of Americans who support nondiscrimination protections since 2015, when it was 71%.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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