Florida Parents Seek Emergency Ruling to Resume Medical Care for Transgender Adolescents

by Aryn Fields

Florida families challenging the state’s ban on medically necessary healthcare for their transgender children filed a motion today 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, which went into effect late last month, is causing their children significant harm through canceled doctors appointments and denials of treatment.

“No parent should be forced to sit by, powerless, while they watch their child experience unnecessary trauma and distress. This ban strips me and my husband of the right to care for our daughter and puts us in exactly that position,” said Jane Doe, who is challenging the ban on behalf of herself and her daughter, Susan.* “Our team of doctors has confirmed that Susan will need to start puberty blocking medication very soon as the next step in treating her gender dysphoria, but the Boards of Medicine rules prohibit them or any physician in the state from providing the treatment she needs. Thanks to the care she has received to date, Susan is a happy, confident child. She’s a girl scout, a straight A student, and has a great group of friends. It breaks my heart to know this ban could take that away. I hope the court will understand that and allow me to get my daughter the medical care she needs to keep her healthy and thriving.”

“All I want as a parent is to make sure my son is as healthy and happy as he can be. I can’t understand why the state would interfere with that by making it impossible for me to get him the medical care he needs,” said Gloria Goe, who is challenging the ban on behalf of herself and her son Gavin.* “Gavin has known he is a boy from a young age. While it took us time to understand what that meant, consulting with our trusted pediatrician helped us to be able to support him. That was absolutely the right path as we’ve watched Gavin grow into a bright, social, and happy child. Our pediatrician has now recommended that Gavin meet with a pediatric endocrinologist to evaluate next steps, but the appointment I made for him was canceled and this ban keeps anyone in the state from ensuring he gets all the medical care he needs. The state’s policy banning the care my son needs has taken away my right to make the best, most informed decision for him and his health.”

“As a parent, it’s my job to protect my daughter from harm and make sure she has everything she needs to live a healthy life. But I feel powerless in the face of this ban, which has taken away my ability to get her the healthcare she needs,” said Linda Loe, who is challenging the ban on behalf of herself and her daughter Lisa.* “Our pediatric endocrinologist confirmed in March that Lisa needs to start puberty blocking medication to maintain her health, but the clinic has told us they can’t provide it because of the state’s ban. Lisa was such a happy-go-lucky kid, but I have seen the devastating toll her gender dysphoria has taken on her health and know that she desperately needs to begin treatment. I feel as if we are racing against the clock to find a way to get her the care she needs.”

In addition to the motion for a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint today adding three additional families to the lawsuit. The seven parents challenging the ban on behalf of themselves and their children argue that the policy unlawfully strips them of the right to make informed decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violates the equal protection rights of transgender youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare.

The plaintiffs are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Florida’s ban on established medical care for transgender youth came through rules finalized by the state’s Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine that have faced widespread scrutiny for ignoring established medical and scientific consensus on treatment for adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria.The bans contradict guidelines recommended by every major medical association including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Similar bans on established medical care for transgender youth have been blocked by federal judges in Alabama and Arkansas.

“These bans are already having devastating impacts on Florida families,” said Simone Chriss, Director of Transgender Rights Initiative, Southern Legal Counsel. “Transgender adolescents are being denied access to critical medical care, and parents are being forced to sit by and watch their children suffer preventable harm. The Florida Medical Boards and Surgeon General have not only failed to fulfill their own duty to protect the health and wellbeing of transgender youth in this state, but they have also blocked the parents of those youth from exercising their fundamental right to do so."

“Florida parents are now in the unthinkable position of not being able to provide essential healthcare for their kids,” said Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “Because of this ban which ignores decades of clinical research, parents of transgender adolescents have been stripped of their right to make informed decisions about their kids’ medical care.”

“Florida has crossed a dangerous line by letting this ban go into effect,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Parents, not the government, should be in charge of directing their children’s healthcare. The state of Florida is interfering with family privacy and decision-making and children and parents are suffering because of it.”

“Every day this ban is in place is hurting transgender kids and their families,” Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director. “Like any parent, parents of transgender children want to do what’s best for their kids, but Florida has taken that right away from them. Instead, the state is targeting families with a cruel and unscientific policy that is putting transgender kids’ health at risk.”

*The plaintiffs are all proceeding under pseudonyms to protect their children’s privacy.

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