A proposed bill in the Florida Legislature would allow for a Florida court to take custody of a child if it rules that a parent has "subjected" the child to sex-reassignment treatments if passed in this year's legislative session. 

What You Need To Know

  • A proposed law would allow the state to take custody of a child if the parents allow sex reassignment procedures

  • The bill comes after a number of top-down statewide determinations regarding sex reassignment care

  • Included is language extends the definition of "serious physical harm" to include a parent's support of sex reassignment care
  • The bill, currently labeled SB 254, has a companion bill in the house, which is HB 1421

The proposal, which is currently under consideration with the Health Policy Committee in the state Senate, has a number of custody-related items related to sex reassignment treatment or surgeries. 

The first item in the proposal amends an existing law that gives a state court temporary emergency jurisdiction if a child has been abandoned, or is in an emergency where the court has to act to protect the child. The proposal adds additional language that extends the emergency powers to include if a child is "at risk or is being subjected to the provision of sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures." 

Another provision in the bill would alter the state's classification as what is "unjustifiable conduct" on the part of a parent. The proposal would label "subjecting or attempting to subject a child to the provision of sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures." Additionally, the bill amends the current statute to classify a parent's removal of a child from another parent or from another state justifiable conduct as long as the removal of the child in question was "for the purpose of protecting a child" from sex reassignment treatment. The proposal then goes on to add that a parent's removal is not labeled unjustifiable conduct, even if there was just reason to believe that the child was at risk or was being subjected to the provision of such prescriptions or procedures." 

The next section in the bill would allow someone petitioning for custody of a child to legally label another parent or guardian, providing access to sex reassignment procedures as subjecting the child to "serious physical harm." 

The bill has several other provisions in its current form that also address the issue of sex reassignment care that range from requiring doctor's offices to sign a statement saying that they don't provide such care or refer patients to other offices that do, to a provision that allows courts in the State of Florida to "vacate, stay, or modify" an existing child custody determination made by a court in another state. 

Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis' administration asked a state board to ban Medicaid coverage of minors seeking transition-related care. President Joe Biden was quick to get involved at the time, issuing an executive order that aimed to protect LGBTQI+ youth in the state. 

“I don’t have to tell you about the ultra MAGA agenda attacking families and our freedoms,” Biden said at the White House ceremony announcing his executive order. “Three hundred discriminatory bills introduced in the states across this country. In Texas, knocking on front doors to harass and investigate parents who are raising transgender children. In Florida, going after Mickey Mouse, for God’s sake.”

That rule was extended to health care officials in August of last year, and was denounced by LGBTQ groups across the state. 

“AHCA’s actions, at the behest of Governor (Ron) DeSantis and his political appointees, are morally and legally wrong, as well as medically and scientifically unsound," a joint statement from the groups said at the time. “This rule represents a dangerous escalation in Governor DeSantis’s political zeal to persecute LGBTQ+ people in Florida, and particularly transgender youth.”

In November, officials with the Florida Department of Health said the state boards of medicine and osteopathic medicine voted to prohibit sex reassignment surgery or any other procedures that "alter primary or secondary sexual characteristics." Pubery blockers were also prohibited in the ruling. 

"Today's vote from the Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine will protect our children from irreversible surgeries and highly experimental treatments," Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo said in a statement at the time. "I appreciate the integrity of the Boards for ruling in the best interest of children in Florida despite facing tremendous pressure to permit these unproven and risky treatments. Children deserve to learn how to navigate this world without harmful pressure, and Florida will continue to fight for kids to be kids."

State health officials decided to let that decision stand in a hearing held in February. 

“What the board sought to do is to protect our children from therapies that have irreversible harm, that have been shown to create irreversible harm,” said Florida Board of Medicine Member Dr. Hector Vila to the crowd attending the public hearing.

The bill, currently labeled SB 254, has a companion bill in the house, which is HB 1421. The Senate version was filed by newly elected State Sen. Clay Yarborough from Jacksonville. The House version of the proposal was filed jointly by Reps. Ralph Massullo and Randy Fine.