BY BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Updated 4:37 AM EST, December 22, 2023
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge hearing a challenge to a transgender health care ban for minors and restrictions for adults noted Thursday that Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly spread false information about doctors mutilating children’s genitals even though there’s been no such documented cases.
The law was sold as defending children from mutilation when it is actually about preventing trans children from getting health care, 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 Legislature, the Department of Health and presidential candidate DeSantis deliberately targeted transgender people through the new law. He raised some skepticism about the state’s motivation as lawyers gave their closing arguments.
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 trans 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 banned all treatment for adults and children. Hinkle quickly replied that Jazil would have trouble defending such a law.
Hinkle, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, has temporarily blocked enforcement of the law as it pertains to minors, pending the outcome of the trial. The lawsuit also challenges restrictions placed on adult trans 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 the nation’s first law, in Arkansas, struck down by a federal judge who said 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 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, the teaching of gender identification in schools, restrictions on public bathrooms and the prohibition of trans girls from playing girls sports.