TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida state House Republican on Monday pledged to introduce legislation to criminalize gender-affirming care for minors throughout the state, a proposal similar to a measure backed by Arkansas Republicans last year that was condemned by LGBTQ rights advocates.
State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), who recently served as the House’s K-12 budget chief, said he wants to “shepherd legislation” in 2023 that would create a “felony child abuse” penalty for doctors who provide surgery or prescribe drugs that aid in the “gender assignment” of youth in Florida. He also proposed that doctors lose their medical license.
Florida’s 2023 session is currently some 11 months away. Fine’s term — along with Florida’s 160 legislative seats — are up for election in November.
“I can say I’m a porcupine, but that doesn’t make it so,” Fine wrote in a tweet Monday. “It is time to dispense with this fantasy making women’s sports a joke and our schools into a cesspool.”
Some conservatives have pushed for restrictions on transgender athletes, saying new laws are needed to protect women’s sports. Yet transgender women have been allowed to compete in women’s categories in the Olympics since 2003 and the NCAA since 2010.
Medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, support gender-affirming care for adolescents. Medical guidelines, however, do not recommend gender-affirming surgeries for children under 18.
Fine’s comments mark the latest attempt by Florida Republicans to target sexual orientation and gender identity among students in the state.
State GOP leaders in 2021 passed legislation banning transgender athletes from playing girls’ sports and just recently enacted a bill to push back against what GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis calls “transgenderism” in schools through a proposal that prohibits teachers from leading classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade.
Democrats in Florida contended that Fine’s proposal was a “dangerous” way to build on the parental rights legislation signed last week by DeSantis, FL HB1557 (22R), dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” law by opponents.
“FL Republicans once again showing us that the entire premise of HB1557 was & is to attack the health & well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, who they don’t think should even be able to access medical care w/parental consent,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) wrote on Twitter.
The idea of making gender-affirming treatments illegal for minors has been proposed in several states, including Florida previously, while officials elsewhere are taking other steps. In Texas, for example, Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an letter to state health agencies that gender-affirming care for children should be considered child abuse. Others in Texas are investigating the makers of puberty-blocking drugs.
More than a dozen states have introduced measures to penalize health care providers who give gender-affirming care to children and teenagers as Republican leaders argue it counts as “child abuse.” Yet medical and child welfare groups, along with LGBTQ rights advocates, have opposed the moves, claiming they further marginalize youth facing higher risks of suicide and mental health issues.
Arkansas is fighting in federal court to preserve its ban on such treatments, which Republicans argued was needed to protect minors — a stance Fine also took on Monday. In every state, minors seeking such care require parental consent.
“No child should be put in the position of making life-altering decisions before they are of the age of majority,” Fine wrote on Twitter.