Judges in Two States Strike Down Bans on Gender-Affirming Care

June 22, 2023

Two different federal judges this week have struck down laws that would bar gender-affirming healthcare in Arkansas and Florida.

In Arkansas on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jay Moody struck down the would-be first-in-the-nation ban on gender-affirming care for children as unconstitutional.

Moody said the law, which would have prohibited doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18, violated due process and equal protection rights of transgender youth and families. 

The judge who’s with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas had temporarily blocked the state’s law in 2021, when Republican lawmakers first enacted the ban by overriding the veto of then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). 

Moody further ruled Tuesday that the law violated the First Amendment rights of medical providers by prohibiting them from referring patients elsewhere.

“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, 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 wrote in his ruling.

On Wednesday Judge Robert Hinkle with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida struck down a law in that state restricting Medicaid coverage for gender dysphoria treatments for potentially thousands of transgender people.

“Gender identity is real” and the state has admitted it, Hinkle wrote in a 54-page ruling, adding that a Florida health code rule and a new state law violated federal laws on Medicaid, equal protection and the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition of sex discrimination.

Hinkle further said the state of Florida had chosen to block payment for some treatments “for political reasons” using a biased and unscientific process. He further asserted that “pushing individuals away from their transgender identity is not a legitimate state interest.”

The latest ruling from Hinkle comes two weeks after he temporarily blocked portions of Florida law that would ban transgender minors from receiving puberty blockers.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) said Tim Griffin, the state’s attorney general, plans to appeal Judge Moody’s decision to the  Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

It was not immediately clear whether the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who championed his state’s gender-affirming care bans, planned to appeal as his office did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment. 

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