A federal judge in Tallahassee has invalidated a law and a rule that prohibited payment for some medically necessary treatments for gender dysphoria, calling them unconstitutional acts of discrimination against transgender people. The judge also ordered coverage to be restored. The policy was largely motivated by anti-transgender bigotry, and the judge ascribed the policy to the plainly illegitimate purposes of disapproving transgender status and discouraging individuals from pursuing their honest gender identities. The transgender treatment policy reflects another front in the culture war that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seems to think will sweep him past Donald Trump and into the White House.
DeSantis has been running into a judicial buzz saw as his initiatives have all been aimed at shoring up his right-wing bona fides as he pursues his quest for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. DeSantis has evidently decided that the key to securing the nomination is to appeal to the narrowest conceivable voting base within the GOP. (storage.courtlistener.com) That’s the cadre that makes common cause with white supremacists in demonizing diversity and inclusiveness, that wishes to suppress any honest discussion of racism in America’s past or present, that opposes the full spectrum of women’s reproductive rights including the right to abortion.
The transgender treatment policy reflects another front in the culture war that DeSantis seems to think will sweep him past Donald Trump and into the White House. (cnn.com) (s3.documentcloud.org) He’s not alone in targeting LGBTQ+ people and transgender individuals specifically. Laws and policies banning gender-affirming care for adolescents have been passed or implemented in 19 other states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ rights group, and are under consideration in at least seven others.
The Florida initiative was launched last year via a decision by the state’s Medicaid agency to cease paying for gender-affirming care. In practical terms, the decision applied to puberty blockers for transgender adolescents and cross-sex hormones — testosterone for those transitioning to men, and estrogen for those transitioning to women — for adults and older adolescents. The Medicaid agency ruling was followed by legislation prohibiting the use of state funds, including Medicaid, for “sex reassignment prescriptions or procedures.” (latimes.com) (hrc.org)
The judge ruled that “the overwhelming weight of medical authority supports treatment of transgender patients” with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones “in appropriate circumstances….Not a single reputable medical association has taken a contrary position.” The state’s interference with these treatments crossed a bright line, the judge found: “Dissuading a person from conforming to the person’s gender identity rather than to the person’s natal sex is not a legitimate state interest.”
In conclusion, the judge reproached DeSantis and Florida officials for casting doubt on medical science for their own partisan purposes. “Gender identity,” he wrote, “is real.”