State of Affairs

Everything to Know About SB 254, the Worst Trans Ban You Didn’t Hear About

A federal judge from the North District of Florida recently put a temporary block on a ban that attacked the state’s gender-affirming care. While this is great news, there are two major problems here. The first is that the word “temporary” appears in that previous sentence. The second is that the ruling came after the ban had been in effect for over 2 weeks, but the bill and its effects were largely unreported by the wider media.

The piece of legislation in question is Senate Bill 254, signed by Ron DeSantis (yes, it’s him again) on May 17, 2023. While many states across the country have been working to enact various forms of anti-LGBTQ+ laws, bans on trans care and inclusion, and bans on drag performances, Florida seems to have been leading the charge. Most notably, DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022, and SB 254 comes on the heels of the state expanding that previous legislation to become even more damaging to LGBTQ+ Youth.

Much of the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the states has targeted trans youth. This has given politicians an opportunity to clutch their pearls and scream about concern for the children. The effects of Florida’s SB 254 prove what we’ve always known: this has never been about the children; this has been about the systematic attempt to eradicate trans people.

Why Florida’s SB 254 Is So Awful For Trans People

When DeSantis signed Florida’s SB 254 into law, there was plenty to be concerned about. It continued to target many of the same things that had been seen in previous laws: drag shows, the use of trans and gender non-conforming individuals’ pronouns, and people using certain bathrooms. As far as healthcare, it banned gender-affirming care for minors.

This left no room for parental approval for minors to receive necessary gender-affirming care. While adding a provision for that would be insufficient for many as it requires having a supportive family, which cannot be assumed, it at least would provide some recourse for some people. SB 254 removed a parent’s ability to support their trans children properly.

But Florida’s anti-trans bill went beyond attacking trans youth under the guise of “letting kids be kids” (which already relied on the assumption that they would be the kids that Florida insisted they be). The bill also banned state money from being used for gender-affirming care, meaning there would be an additional financial hurdle for what can already be a difficult expense.

While all of this was relatively clear from the outset, the truly evil part of the bill came from a restriction that might not have seemed as unreasonable. Florida’s bill mandated that anyone receiving gender-affirming care (regardless of their age) provide an informed consent form and required that prescriptions and care be handled by a physician. However, the committee responsible failed to provide the required informed consent forms so that process could be completed, and the physician requirement effectively banned nurse practitioners in Florida from providing any gender-affirming care.

The delay in the consent forms has already created a delay that has led to trans people who have not been able to stockpile prescriptions from being forced into the early stages of a medical detransition. But more importantly, it’s estimated that around 80% of trans adults on HRT in Florida receive their care and prescriptions from a nurse practitioner or advanced practice registered nurse. All of these people found that SB 254 was banning their care by simply restricting the ability to reach it without banning it in name. Across the state Florida healthcare providers had to start canceling appointments while trying to work out how they would be able to provide future care, and Judge Hinkle’s ruling won’t undo that overnight.

Why Judge Hinkle’s Ruling Is So Important

Judge Hinkle putting a temporary block on SB 254 is obviously great news for trans people in Florida and the United States. However, beyond its immediate effect, it is additionally important because of the language Hinkle used in his takedown of the bill.

Throughout his ruling (which you can read in full here), Judge Hinkle calls out the defenders of SB 254 for their hypocrisy, their bigotry, and their use of false information. When the defendants argued that the organizations that supported trans healthcare were driven by “good politics, not good medicine,” he noted:

If ever a pot called a kettle black, it is here. The statute and the rules were an exercise in politics, not good medicine.

Judge Robert Hinkle in his ruling against SB 254

As well as quoting the defendants’ inflammatory remarks from committee hearings back at them to highlight that this was a bill driven by bigotry, he highlighted places where their argument entirely failed. The defendants of SB 254 had claimed that many trans people later regretted treatment but were unable to provide any evidence of a single Florida resident that felt this way.

All of this is great to have on the record, but the most important aspect from Judge Hinkle’s ruling comes in a simple phrase: “Gender Identity is Real.” Hinkle not only cites the medical evidence that supports this but notes that parts of the defense have also had to admit this. Here, Hinkle is calling the defendants out on the fact that they do not believe their own arguments and that this “elephant in the room” is evidence of the fact that this bill is about attacking a minority group, and nothing more than that. Having all of Hinkle’s comments on record can help to set a powerful precedent against discriminatory laws for the future.

Why Florida’s SB 254 Trans Ban Is Still Terrifying (Even If It Stays Blocked)

Florida’s SB 254 is abhorrent, and Judge Hinkle’s ruling against it is fantastic news, but it’s not time to breathe a sigh of relief just yet. The block is only temporary, and the defendants will likely push to have that block overturned. The bill is still signed into law and one judge ruling that parts of it are unconstitutional doesn’t mean that it can’t come back in the future. If a bill like this is challenged enough, it will eventually end up in front of the Supreme Court. Given SCOTUS’ current makeup and some of its recent decisions, that’s hardly a comforting thought.

The other reason that Florida’s SB 254 bill is so terrifying is down to the man that signed it. Ron DeSantis has been working to turn Florida into a template for hatred has and has proven that trans people’s existence is a way to rile up his base on the right. Other states will follow suit with similar bills as it is. But with DeSantis announcing his presidential campaign shortly after signing SB 254 in May, it’s easy to see his vision for America, and it’s clearly not a vision that includes trans people.

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