(The Hill) — Four Florida families with transgender children have filed a federal lawsuit challenging new rules set by the state’s medical boards that prevent minors from accessing gender-affirming health care.
Florida’s Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine in February approved a set of rules that prohibit health care providers from administering gender-affirming health care to minor patients, conflicting with guidance set by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health and the Endocrine Society and the recommendations of most major medical organizations.
In a lawsuit filed late Thursday in the Northern District of Florida, the families argue that the new rules, which only apply to youth who have not begun treatment, violate the rights of parents to make decisions about the health and wellbeing of their children.
“The transgender medical bans violate this fundamental right by preventing the parent plaintiffs from obtaining medically necessary care for their minor adolescent children,” the lawsuit states. “By intruding upon parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their adolescent children, the transgender medical bans are subject to strict scrutiny.”
Thursday’s lawsuit additionally argues that the new Florida rules violate the U.S. Constitution because they discriminate based on sex and transgender status.
The case’s defendants, which include Florida Surgeon General Joseph Lapado and members of the state’s Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine, “cannot demonstrate any rational basis, much less an important or compelling one, for the transgender medical bans which prevent transgender adolescents from getting safe and effective medically necessary healthcare,” the lawsuit argues.
Each of the plaintiffs is represented by the Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign.
“Like most parents, my husband and I want nothing more than for our daughter to be healthy, happy, and safe,” said one of the suit’s plaintiffs, using the pseudonym Jane Doe. “Being able to consult with our team of doctors to understand what our daughter is experiencing and make the best, most informed decisions about her care has been critically important for our family.”
Under the new Florida rules, which went into effect this month, Doe’s transgender daughter, 11-year-old Susan Doe, will not be able to receive gender-affirming medical care prior to her 18th birthday. Susan Doe, according to Thursday’s lawsuit, has not been prescribed puberty blockers because she has not yet started puberty.
“She is a happy, confident child, but this ban takes away our right to provide her with the next step in her recommended treatment when she reaches puberty,” Doe said Thursday in a statement released by her attorneys. Doe said her family is unable to move to another state where gender-affirming health care for youth is still legal because her husband, John Doe, is stationed in Florida as a senior officer in the U.S. Navy.
“We’re proud to serve our country, but we are being treated differently than other military families because of a decision by politicians in the state where we are stationed,” she said. “We have no choice but to fight this ban to protect our daughter’s physical and mental health.”
Another Florida mother, using the name Brenda Boe in Thursday’s lawsuit, said she is challenging the new Florida rules on behalf of her 10-year-old son, Bennett.
“This ban puts me and other Florida parents in the nightmare position of not being able to help our child when they need us most,” Boe said Thursday in a statement. “My son has a right to receive appropriate, evidence-based medical care. He was finally getting to a place where he felt hopeful, where being prescribed testosterone was on the horizon and he could see a future for himself in his own body. That has been ripped away by this cruel and discriminatory rule.”
Since 2021, 10 states including Florida have enacted laws or policies restricting access to gender-affirming health care for minors, and more than 100 pieces of legislation with similar goals are under consideration in over two dozen states this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Florida in August also enacted a separate rule that prevents the state’s transgender residents, regardless of their age, from using Medicaid to help pay for gender-affirming health care. That rule is also being challenged in federal court.