Strike down of Arkansas ban on gender dysphoria treatments emboldens Florida legal challenge

'Some of the experts that they relied on there are the same experts that the state relied on here,' Simone Chriss of Southern Legal Counsel says
Posted at 5:23 PM, Jun 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-21 17:23:57-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge in Arkansas has blocked a ban on gender dysphoria treatments for transgender minors, ruling it unconstitutional. That's now giving trans advocates in Florida more hope that a similar ruling is coming soon to the Sunshine State.

The ruling came down Tuesday afternoon, and while it only applies to Arkansas, the case is thought to be the first real challenge of these types of bans, which states like Florida have in place. 

In his decision, Judge James M. Moody Jr. said Arkansas' ban on puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for minors was discrimination against transgender people and violated the constitutional rights of doctors.

Writing in his 80-page opinion, the federal judge said Arkansas' law hurt more than helped, saying the following:

"The evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that by prohibiting it, the state undermined the interests it claims to be advancing," Moody said. 

Delilah Pierre, a member of Tallahassee's transgender community, got a burst of hope that similar laws in Florida are the next to go. She wanted change to come with it, however. 

"I'd say it makes me feel good. I feel happy," Pierre said. "I don't think we should, kind of like, ease up or relax too much because although this bill may have been stopped, for now, this anti-trans onslaught and assaults will continue."

Florida's restrictions on transgender hormone therapies and surgery are currently in federal litigation. One ban set for trial soon restricts treatments for minors.

The other, currently awaiting a decision, carves all treatments out of the state's Medicaid plan. Attorneys who brought both challenges felt emboldened by the Arkansas ruling.

They noted the judge undercut that state's reasoning for the ban — that the care was experimental and carelessly prescribed. It's the same rationale Florida used.

"Some of the experts that they relied on there are the same experts that the state relied on here," Simone Chriss with Southern Legal Counsel said. "Their views are far out of line and contrary to those of the major medical organizations and the overwhelming consensus of the medical community."

Republicans supporting the bans were unavailable for comment. In the past, Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, has said the new law preserves tax dollars and protects against what he considers "child abuse."

"You're allowed to be stupid in this country, so there's no desire to stop this for adults. Children, it's a whole different story," Fine told us in May. "You can't, you know you can't get a tattoo, you shouldn't be able to cut your breast off."

Florida now awaits its own rulings, but transgender advocates like Delilah said the courts are just a start.

"I want follow through," Pierre said. "Otherwise, I'm not going to be satisfied just because I know how even a judicial victory doesn't necessarily translate into an immediate change."