A Florida judge’s principled ruling on state’s trans care ban | Editorial
Medicine colliding with a Republican governor’s presidential campaign.
An Orlando patient holds bottles of medications for hormone replacement therapy as part of her gender affirming care on May 27. (AP Photo/Laura Bargfeld)
An Orlando patient holds bottles of medications for hormone replacement therapy as part of her gender affirming care on May 27. (AP Photo/Laura Bargfeld) [ LAURA BARGFELD | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published June 9

A federal judge struck a blow for human dignity, equal treatment and parental rights by issuing a partial stop to Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The ruling underscores America’s bedrock principles of privacy and due process, and lays bare the hypocrisy of Florida Republicans who curtail personal freedoms under the banner of liberty.

Tuesday’s ruling stems from a lawsuit a group of Florida families filed against the state medical boards and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, the plaintiffs alleged that the bans on gender-affirming care, which took effect this year, violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause because they singled out transgender children, blocking them from obtaining medically necessary treatment. The restrictions from the Florida boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine barred doctors from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries to treat new patients younger than 18 for gender dysphoria, the distress one feels with the sex assigned at birth. The plaintiffs also argued the bans denied parents the right to make medical decisions for their children.

Under the injunction, three of seven parents that challenged the ban can access care for their transgender children while the legal case continues. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle said that the parents are likely to win their case, and in issuing a preliminary injunction, noted the “elephant in the room” — that “gender identity is real.” Hinkle said the “unspoken suggestion running just below the surface” that led to the adoption of the bans is that transgender identity is not real, and he criticized some of the state’s experts for endorsing that idea.

The judge’s ruling is a strong defense of science over politics, and he brushed off the state’s claim that professional organizations in support of medical treatment for gender dysphoria are biased. The medical boards began the rule-making process last year after Ladapo’s state health department urged them to do so. The bans conflicted with widely accepted and long-standing guidance published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical organizations. Though the injunction applies to just three parents, an attorney for Southern Legal Counsel, one of the groups that brought the case, said her team was exploring options for broader relief. That’s the only logical next step for a court ruling that’s rooted in the guarantee of equal protection.

Since 2021, more than 20 Republican-led states have passed bills regulating the lives of transgender youth, the New York Times reported last week. But in what’s becoming a race to the moral bottom, 16 states have enacted bans on restrictions this year alone, with Gov. Greg Abbott signing a bill this month making Texas the largest state to ban transition care for minors.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed gender issues to the forefront of the culture wars, using a Republican legislative supermajority to fashion his socially conservative platform for president. Hinkle’s ruling pokes the partisan steam out of Florida’s restrictions on trans care. Though Hinkle’s ruling applies narrowly, it puts decency and the law back into the foreground. It’s another reminder of what happens when one political party controls all of the apparatus of state government.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.