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Florida law restricting trans adult care can be enforced during challenge

Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that adults seeking to expand his injunction on minors haven’t proven they would be irreparably harmed until the case is resolved.

A new Florida law restricting health care for transgender people can still be applied to adults while it is being challenged in court, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who previously blocked the law's enforcement on behalf of minors, ruled that adults seeking to expand his injunction haven't proven they would be irreparably harmed until the case is resolved. A full trial is slated for Nov. 13.

Hinkle cited a recent appellate ruling in an Alabama case. An 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel reversed a judge’s ruling that blocked a law banning gender-affirming care for minors.

The 11th circuit hears cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

Hinkle wrote the Florida adult plaintiffs’ “likelihood of success on the merits is significantly lower now than it was prior to” last month’s appellate decision.

On Monday, Alabama families asked the full 11th Circuit to review the decision.

The law signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in May bans any transgender treatment for minors and requires transgender adults give signed consent to treatment in person and with a physician present.

Advocates say that is a problem because much of the care is prescribed by nurse practitioners and/or through telehealth – and that it’s too hard for many patients to get or get to in-person appointments with physicians.

Two plaintiffs have said they won’t be able to obtain hormone treatment from their current providers, who are nurse practitioners.

Hinkle’s ruling said that “the challenged statute and rules do not prohibit adults from obtaining treatments of the kind the plaintiffs seek” and “despite the plaintiffs’ contrary assertions, they may be able to obtain the treatment from others.”

The law (SB 254) barred doctors from ordering gender-affirming care for children but allowed minors already receiving such treatment to continue under certain conditions. The state is appealing Hinkle’s decision in June to block that ban on the use of puberty blockers and hormones to treat youths.

The lawsuit was revised in July to add several adults as plaintiffs. It contends the new restrictions on adults have erected “unnecessary barriers” to care and imposed “medically unsupported requirements” on transgender people.

The lawsuit alleges that the law and resulting rules adopted by the state Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine have created a “crisis of availability of care” for trans adults.

Hinkle latest decision comes after a two-hour hearing Friday on the motion for a preliminary injunction to block portions of the law dealing with adults and a request for class-action certification.

Florida is one of 22 states to adopt a law in the last few years banning gender-affirming care for children. But unlike others, the one signed by DeSantis also has provisions aimed at care for transgender adults.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.