Court Judge Law Legal

Federal Judge Blocks Biden Rule On Transgender Healthcare In Florida

Court Judge Law Legal
Judge With Gavel (File)

In a significant legal victory for the state of Florida, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking a new Biden administration healthcare rule that would have clashed with the state’s efforts to restrict certain treatments for transgender individuals.

This ruling, delivered by U.S. District Judge William Jung, represents a major development in the ongoing battle over transgender healthcare policies in the United States.

The contested rule, finalized by the Biden administration, was designed to help carry out a federal law that prohibits discrimination in healthcare programs receiving federal funding. The rule aimed to extend this non-discrimination protection to include discrimination based on gender identity.

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However, Florida, along with several other Republican-led states, has taken a different stance, enacting laws and policies that restrict access to gender-affirming treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers, particularly for minors.

The state of Florida, through its Agency for Health Care Administration and Department of Management Services, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, arguing that the new rule would undermine its existing laws and policies.

Judge Jung’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction, which temporarily blocks the implementation of the rule in Florida, is a significant victory for the state and a setback for the Biden administration’s efforts to expand LGBTQ+ healthcare protections.

In his 50-page decision, Judge Jung acknowledged that Florida has “shown that it faces an imminent injury” if the new rule were to take effect. The judge noted that the state’s agencies and healthcare providers would be forced to either violate Florida’s existing laws or the new federal rule, creating a legal conundrum.

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Importantly, Judge Jung’s ruling cited recent decisions by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The appeals court has previously upheld a school board policy that prevented a transgender male student from using the boys’ bathroom, ruling that such a policy did not violate Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education programs.

The judge argued that the new healthcare rule is “stillborn and a nullity” if Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, as the 11th Circuit has determined.

This legal precedent, according to Judge Jung, effectively renders the Biden administration’s rule unenforceable in the 11th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

The federal judge’s decision to block the Biden administration’s healthcare rule in Florida represents a significant victory for the state and a setback for the federal government’s efforts to expand LGBTQ+ healthcare protections.

This ruling, coupled with the nationwide injunction issued by a Mississippi federal judge, highlights the ongoing legal and political battles surrounding transgender healthcare policies in the United States.

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Breaking it down

What the Rule Does:

  • The rule aims to enforce a federal law prohibiting discrimination in healthcare programs receiving federal funds.
  • It interprets “sex” in this context to include gender identity.
  • This would require healthcare providers to offer services like hormone therapy and puberty blockers if medically necessary, regardless of a patient’s gender identity.

Florida’s Objections:

  • Florida objects to the rule, arguing it infringes on the state’s ability to restrict transgender healthcare.
  • The state claims the rule could force them to violate existing laws that limit Medicaid coverage for transgender treatments and prevent them from minors.
  • Florida also argues complying with the rule could jeopardize federal funding for its healthcare programs.

Court’s Decision:

  • Judge William Jung issued a preliminary injunction, preventing the rule from taking effect in Florida.
  • He reasoned that Florida faces “imminent injury” as complying with the rule could conflict with state laws and potentially lead to funding losses.

National Implications:

  • This decision only applies to Florida, but a separate lawsuit from several other states resulted in a nationwide injunction.
  • These legal battles highlight the ongoing tension between federal anti-discrimination efforts and state restrictions on transgender healthcare.

Underlying Issue:

  • The core issue is whether federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in healthcare extends to cover gender identity.
  • Judge Jung referenced a previous appeals court decision that said Title IX (a federal law barring sex discrimination in education) doesn’t include gender identity.

Next Steps:

  • This is a temporary injunction, and the legal battle over the rule is likely to continue.
  • The Justice Department argues the rule doesn’t dictate specific services and respects a clinician’s medical judgment.
  • Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is also challenging separate Biden administration rules on transgender rights in education programs.

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