Transgender kids must stop treatment under Florida bill

The bill would only allow medical therapies to treat gender dysphoria in children until the end of 2023.
Trans pride flags fly at a gathering to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility in 2017.
Trans pride flags fly at a gathering to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility in 2017. [ ROBYN BECK/AFP | Getty Images North America ]
Published March 22|Updated March 23

Transgender children who were allowed to continue gender dysphoria treatment despite Florida’s ban on such care would be forced to stop after this year under a proposal making its way through the state House.

Florida’s Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine barred doctors from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone therapies or providing sex reassignment surgeries to new children seeking the treatment, but allowed those minors already receiving the care to be grandfathered in, with no cut-off date. The ban took effect last week.

Under HB 1421, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, and Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, children under that exception would only be able to continue their treatment through Dec. 31, 2023, “solely for the purpose of gradual discontinuation of such therapies,” according to the bill.

Afterwards, the treatments would have to cease.

Legislators voted in favor of the bill 12-5. It has one more committee stop before moving to the House floor for a full vote.

The bill also opens the door to allow lawsuits against doctors who provide hormone therapies or gender-affirming surgeries to adults, saying they are liable for any “physical, psychological, emotional, or physiological injury” resulting from the treatment.

Prohibitions on care for children with gender dysphoria go against the recommendation of major medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society.

A failed amendment by Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, would have allowed all children receiving medical care for gender dysphoria to continue to be grandfathered in, with no cut-off date. Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, became emotional when asking her colleagues to support the amendment, saying that cutting off treatment was “horrific” for children who have been “living their lives three or four years.”

Will Larkins, an 18-year-old LGBTQ rights activist, said children would be hurt if treatment they’ve received for years goes away. Larkins told lawmakers that “you will kill them if you force them to detransition.”

Members of Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights organization, said the bill would force children to detransition and criticized it as the most comprehensive and extreme attack on LGBTQ people moving through any state legislature.

The House bill doubles down on the medical board’s rule, prohibiting doctors from prescribing therapies to treat gender dysphoria for new minor patients and makes it a third-degree felony if practitioners deviate.

Massullo said he and Fine “consider these procedures child abuse, and we would like to think there is a magnitude of evidence that shows those facts.”

Several lawmakers and members of the public applauded the bill, including January Littlejohn, a Tallahassee mother whose lawsuit was frequently referenced amid conversation on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as the Don’t Say Gay bill.

Along with allowing patients to sue doctors for their treatment, the legislation permits someone’s estate to sue a doctor for damages when “the death of that individual was caused by such gender clinical intervention.”

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The provisions are different from what’s in the linked Senate bill, which is in its second and final committee meeting on Thursday.

The House bill would also prohibit people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificate except in narrow circumstances, like correcting an error or when someone has “external biological sex characteristics that were unresolvably ambiguous at the time of birth.”

The bill also limits how money can be spent on gender-affirming treatments for adults. It prohibits any state agency from funding it or a health insurance policy from covering it.

Florida’s restrictions on health care treatment for transgender individuals are being challenged in court. A ban on Medicaid coverage for transgender care is facing a lawsuit, and LGBTQ advocates have said they plan to file a lawsuit soon challenging the Board of Medicine rule banning transgender medical care for children.

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