Taking on Florida’s Transgender Healthcare Ban in Federal Court

When politicians target vulnerable people, civil rights lawyers are on the front lines. Since its founding, GLAD has gone to court to build a factual record to ensure that constitutional guarantees of freedom and equality extend to all of us in the LGBTQ+ community.

Today, Florida is ground zero for a campaign targeting LGBTQ+ people’s right to be ourselves – and three days from now, we’ll be back in a federal courthouse in Tallahassee challenging one of the most restrictive and hostile anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the country, SB 254.

The scope of SB 254 is breathtaking. Brandishing terms like “diabolical,” “evil,” and “bloodsuckers,” Florida legislators cemented into law criminal prohibitions against parents seeking to secure the healthcare transgender adolescents need. The law also, for the first time anywhere in the country, imposed medical restrictions on transgender adults getting the healthcare they need.

The fact is, the Governor, state officials, and legislators who pushed this law wanted to stop transgender people from being transgender. That can’t and won’t happen, but SB 254 is causing many people to suffer.

Members of the team defending transgender rights in Florida posing outside of the federal courthouse
Members of the team defending transgender rights in Florida

At the trial last week, three of our plaintiffs gave powerful, moving testimony about the law’s impact on transgender people and their families.

Lucien Hamel hasn’t been able to get medical care anywhere in Florida since June because of SB 254. He described the sense of dread he felt when the law passed. “I was left with no answers, no support, nothing. And as days continued to pass, my fears grew. How would our care continue? What would we do?”

Parent Jane Doe shared the fear and heartbreak she has for her daughter, Susan, if she can’t continue to provide the care that has allowed Susan to flourish as a happy, healthy, and secure child. “[N]obody with a heart could ever do this to her,” Jane said on the stand, telling the court that SB 254 is “devastating” to her family.

Gloria Goe described how being able to transition also allowed her son Gavin to thrive. “He’s big-hearted. He is full of zest. He’s always smiling.” But as GLAD attorney Chris Erchull asked her to explain how the law has impacted her family, she tearfully shared how fearful she is that SB 254 will take all that away. “If you have children, you will do anything and everything to protect them, to provide what they need,” she said, but “[SB 254] prevents that.”

No parent should have to be put on a witness stand and literally cross-examined in order to get the healthcare her child needs. Standing up for parents, and for transgender people all across Florida who are harmed by this law has been a tremendous honor and privilege.

In the face of political actors who label us “evil” and a federal judiciary that has shifted far right in recent years, the work of civil rights lawyers defending democracy on the front lines has become more essential than ever. 

Today, we are experiencing some of the most difficult battles in our decades-long fight for the equal rights of LGBTQ+ people – in Florida and across the country. GLAD is stepping up to the challenge. We won’t back down.

We will do everything in our power to see SB 254 and other laws targeting our community overturned. And we will never stop striving to ensure we can all realize the freedom and equality guaranteed by our constitution.

Blog by Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights