Citing 'bigotry' and 'irreparable harm,' judge blasts state on Florida transgender care ban

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In a narrow ruling, a Florida judge blocked enforcement of the state's ban on transgender affirming care on Tuesday, calling the rule "an exercise in politics, not in good medicine."

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle granted a preliminary injunction against Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, the Florida Board of Medicine, the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine and other state leaders, and will allow the parents who challenged the state to access medical care for their transgender children as the ban's constitutionality is debated in court.

"The plaintiffs’ adolescent children will suffer irreparable harm — the unwanted and irreversible onset and progression of puberty in their natal sex — if they do not promptly begin treatment with GnRH agonists," wrote Hinkle, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1996. "The treatment will affect the patients themselves, nobody else, and will cause the defendants no harm. The preliminary injunction will be consistent with, not adverse to, the public interest. Adherence to the Constitution is always in the public interest."

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Hinkle's decision presses pause on a board rule that advanced the prohibition on puberty blockers, also known as GnRH agonists, and hormone therapy, for the three plaintiffs in the case: Jane Doe on behalf of Susan Doe,Gloria Goe on behalf of Gavin Goe, and Linda Loe on behalf of Lisa Loe.

Advocates say the ruling signals that the ban could be deemed unconstitutional and apply to all parents as it infringes upon rights to make informed decisions about their children's medical treatment.

Hinkle's preliminary injunction immediately allows these parents of transgender children to administer drugs that can delay the onset or continuation of puberty, and cross-sex hormones — testosterone for transgender males, and estrogen for transgender females — which promote the development of characteristics that align with a patient's gender identity.

The injunction does not refer to gender-affirming surgeries, which Hinkle states 98% of those surgeries are performed on adults, not minors.

Hinkle stated the denial of gender-affirming treatment would cause "needless suffering for a substantial number of patients and will increase anxiety, depression, and the risk of suicide," according to testimony from doctors during the hearing.

"There is no rational basis for a state to categorically ban these treatments," Hinkle wrote.

THE USA TODAY Network - Florida has a request for comment pending with the governor's office as of Tuesday afternoon.

Banning gender-affirming care for trans youth has been a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration, which pushed the Board of Medicine to look into the care last year. DeSantis and other Republican leaders have said the care is experimental and lacks evidence.

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In the order, Hinkle states the "unspoken suggestion running just below the surface" in the ban is that the defendants believe "transgender identity is not real, that it is made up," and that "any proponent of the challenged statute and rules should put up or shut up..."

"Gender identity is real," Hinkle states throughout the order, and says transgender people have faced, and continue to face "bigotry."

"Common experience confirms this, as does a Florida legislator’s remarkable reference to transgender witnesses at a committee hearing as 'mutants' and 'demons,' " Hinkle wrote.

In early April, Republican lawmaker Webster Barnaby compared transgender people to "mutants", "demons" and "imps," during a House Commerce Committee meeting just before voting to support House Bill 1521, which requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth.

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Hinkle states the defendant's arguments that gender-affirming care is harmful to minors, that it is banned in European countries and that Florida is joining "international consensus" in medical care are false.

"And no matter how many times the defendants say it, it will still be false. No country in Europe — or so far as shown by this record, anywhere in the world — entirely bans these treatments," Hinkle wrote.

"Had Florida truly joined the international consensus — making these treatments available in appropriate circumstances or in approved facilities — these plaintiffs would qualify, and the instant motions would not be necessary," he added.

The case was brought anonymously by Jane Doe, who is challenging the ban on behalf of herself and her daughter, Susan.

“My husband and I have been heartbroken and worried sick about not being able to care for our daughter in the way we know she needs. I’m sure most any parent can imagine the sense of powerlessness that comes from being unable to do something as basic as get medical care for your child," Doe said in a statement.

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

“Today’s ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children," the groups said in a statement. "We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned.”

Contact Ana Goñi-Lessan at and follow her on Twitter @goni_lessan.

CLARIFICATION: An updated version of this story has clarified that the ruling is narrow and applies only to the parents involved in the lawsuit as the full case is considered.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Judge blasts Florida trans health care ban, citing 'bigotry' and harm