A federal judge is considering whether to block Florida’s ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, as bills targeting the rights of trans people are being embraced by Republican governors and statehouses across the country.
The restrictions are spreading quickly despite criticism from medical groups and advocates who say they are further marginalizing transgender youth and threatening their health.
Here’s what’s happening:
Attorneys for the parents of three transgender children appeared before a federal judge in Florida on Friday, seeking to block the ban on gender-affirming care for minors that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis approved this week.
Along with the treatment ban, DeSantis on Wednesday also signed bills that restrict pronoun use in schools and force people to use the bathroom corresponding with their sex assigned at birth in some cases.
DeSantis also signed new restrictions on drag shows that would allow the state to revoke the food and beverage licenses of businesses that admit children to adult performances. The DeSantis administration has moved to pull the liquor licenses of businesses that held drag shows, alleging children were present during lewd displays.
The rules on gender-affirming care also ban the use of state money for the care and place new restrictions on adults seeking treatment. They took effect Wednesday, along with the drag show restrictions. The bathroom and pronoun restrictions take effect July 1.
DeSantis has advocated for such restrictions, and championed a Florida law that restricts the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. Florida has expanded that prohibition, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, to all grades.
WHERE BANS STAND NATIONALLY
Hundreds of bills have been proposed this year restricting the rights of transgender people, and LGBTQ+ advocates say they’ve seen a record number of such measures in statehouses.
At least 17 states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and several other states are considering bills to restrict or ban care. Proposed bans are also pending before the governors of Texas, Nebraska and Missouri.
Oklahoma on Thursday agreed to not enforce its ban while opponents of the law seek a preliminary injunction against it in federal court.
These bans have spread quickly, with only three states enacting such laws before this year.
Before DeSantis signed the latest ban, Florida was one of two states that had restricted the care via regulations or administrative action. Texas’ governor has ordered child welfare officials to investigate reports of children receiving such care as child abuse, though a judge has blocked those investigations.
Three transgender youth and their parents who are suing to block Florida’s earlier ban on the care for minors expanded their challenge on Wednesday to include the prohibition DeSantis signed into law.
Every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association, has opposed the bans and supported the medical care for youth when administered appropriately. Lawsuits have been filed in several states where bans have been enacted this year.
STATES POISED TO ACT
Nebraska lawmakers on Friday approved and sent to Republican Gov. Jim Pillen proposed restrictions on gender-affirming care for children as part of legislation that includes a 12-week abortion ban. Pillen has promised to sign the combined measure into law.
The bill would prevent transgender people 18 or younger from receiving any gender-confirming surgery. The state’s chief medical officer — a political appointee who is currently an ear, nose and throat doctor — would set rules for puberty blockers and hormone therapies. There would be some exceptions for minors who were already receiving treatment before the restrictions were enacted.
A proposed ban on gender-affirming care for minors is awaiting action before Republican Gov. Mike Parson in Missouri. The state’s Republican attorney general, Andrew Bailey, this week withdrew a rule he had proposed that would have gone further by also restricting access to the care for adults.
Bailey cited the bill pending before Parson as a reason for eliminating the rule, which had been blocked by a state judge.
A proposal that failed in New Hampshire’s House on Thursday would have required school officials to disclose to inquiring parents that their child is using a different name or being referred to as being a different gender. Opponents said the bill would have exposed LGBTQ+ students to the risk of abuse at home.
Not all states are adopting restrictions, and some Democratic-led states are enacting measures aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ youth.
Michigan Democrats introduced legislation Thursday that would ban conversion therapy for minors, a discredited practice of trying to “convert” people to heterosexuality.
The legislation is expected to move quickly with Democrats in control of all levels of state government. Democratic state Rep. Jason Hoskins, a sponsor of the bill, told The Associated Press that he hopes the legislation passes by the end of June, which is Pride Month.
Associated Press writers Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida; Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire; Margery Beck in Lincoln, Nebraska; Margaret Stafford in Kansas City, Missouri; and Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.