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Florida judge says Ron DeSantis spread false information on trans healthcare and says there's no 'rational basis' to ban gender-affirming care

Lloyd Lee,Associated Press   

Florida judge says Ron DeSantis spread false information on trans healthcare and says there's no 'rational basis' to ban gender-affirming care
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has passed several anti-transgender laws this year.
  • One law being challenged in federal court banned gender-affirming care for minors.

A federal judge hearing a challenge to a transgender healthcare ban for minors and restrictions for adults said Thursday that Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly spread false information about doctors mutilating children's genitals even though there have been no such documented cases.

The ban was sold as defending children from mutilation when it is actually about preventing trans children from getting healthcare, District Judge Robert Hinkle said to Mohammad Jazil, a lawyer for the state.

"When I'm analyzing the governor's motivation, what should I make of these statements?" Hinkle asked. "This seems to be more than just hyperbole."

Hinkle said he will rule sometime in the new year on whether the Florida Legislature, the Florida Department of Health, and the presidential candidate DeSantis deliberately targeted transgender people with the new law. Hinkle raised some skepticism about the state's motivation as lawyers gave their closing arguments.

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

The trial is challenging Florida's ban on medical treatment for transgender children, such as hormone therapy or puberty blockers, a law DeSantis touted while seeking the presidency. The law also places restrictions on adult transgender care.

Jazil said the motivation behind the law was simply public safety in an area that needs more oversight and can have permanent consequences.

"It's about treating a medical condition; it's not about targeting transgender individuals," Jazil said.

Jazil added that if the state was targeting transgender people, it could have barred all treatment for adults and children. Hinkle quickly replied that Jazil would have trouble defending such a law.

Hinkle, who former President Bill Clinton appointed, has temporarily blocked enforcement of the law as it pertains to minors, pending the outcome of the trial.

"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," Hinkle wrote. GnRH agonists are a type of puberty blocker.

The lawsuit also challenges restrictions placed on adult transgender care, which have been allowed to take effect during the trial.

At least 22 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and many of those states face lawsuits. Courts have issued mixed rulings, with a federal judge striking down the nation's first law in Arkansas, saying the ban on care violated the due-process rights of transgender youth and their families.

Enforcement is blocked in two states besides Florida, and enforcement is currently allowed in or set to go into effect soon in seven other states.

Thomas Redburn, a lawyer representing trans adults and the families of trans children, said DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have shown a pattern of targeting transgender people. He listed other recent laws that affect the community, including restrictions on pronoun use in schools, restrictions on teaching gender identification in schools, restrictions on public bathrooms, and the prohibition of transgender girls from playing girls' sports.

Hinkle has previously delivered scathing rebukes against DeSantis' other laws that targeted transgender healthcare.

In June, the federal judge struck down a law that barred government-healthcare programs from paying for gender-affirming care such as hormone therapy.

Proponents of the ban "should put up or shut up: do you acknowledge that there are individuals with actual gender identities opposite their natal sex, or do you not?" Hinkle wrote in his opinion. "Dog whistles ought not be tolerated."

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