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First Coast families file lawsuit fighting Florida's ban on medical care for transgender children

WTLV-TV Jacksonville 3/30/2023 Sarah Glenn

Parents of transgender children in Duval and St. Johns counties are suing over Florida's ban on gender affirming care for transgender minors. 

Four families filed suit against Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, the Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine on March 23. They argue that recently enacted bans on medical treatments like puberty blockers violate the rights of parents to make choices about their child's healthcare. They say such bans also violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

All of the families are listed under pseudonyms for their privacy. The children involved are 9,10,11, and 14 years old, respectively. They're being represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign. 

The plaintiffs argue that the state "cannot demonstrate any rational basis, much less an important or compelling one, for the transgender medical bans."

They say forcing a person to live a life inconsistent with their gender identity can cause discomfort and distress, and interfere with a person's ability to function in a healthy way. This distress is often called 'gender dysphoria', which is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, and can cause anxiety, depression and self-harm. 

Fifty-six percent of transgender youth have reported a previous suicide attempt and and 86% of them reported suicidality, according to the lawsuit. 

Last November, the Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine approved a rule which stated that sex reassignment surgeries and hormone blockers are prohibited. Children receiving care prior to the effective were allowed to continue. 

The boards tightened those rules earlier this month, removing an exemption for youth enrolled in clinical trials.

The families say the medical bans will cause irreparable harm, and they are seeking a preliminary injunction, asking a federal court to stop the policy as the lawsuit plays out.

At least nine states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and South Dakota, according to the Associated Press.

In 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, signed a bill barring transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams intended for student-athletes assigned female at birth. Florida has also been the source of controversy due to the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act or 'Don't say Gay'. 

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