FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FLORIDA STANDARD
By Megan Nager
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — On Monday, LGBTQ activists and Democrat representatives launched a protest outside of the Capitol. What drew the ire of the progressives is Senate Bill 254, which was debated in the Senate Health Policy committee.
Sponsored by Sen. Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville), the proposed legislation places restrictions for children under the age of 18 regarding receiving sex reassignment prescriptions and surgeries.
What’s more, the bill gives Florida courts jurisdiction over children who may be at risk of receiving sex reassignment procedures by one parent. The bill would change the State’s child custody laws to redefine the provision of transition-related health care to minors as “unjustifiable conduct” and “serious physical harm.”
“MAIN PURPOSE TO PROTECT CHILDREN”
Sen. Yarborough explained that the main purpose of SB 254 is to protect children from the many life-altering and unknown long-term side effects that these treatments and procedures could have on them.
Sen. Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Broward) vocally opposed the bill, stating that placing such important medical decisions in the hands of the State would constitute extreme government overreach. Rep. Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville) echoed Sen. Books’ sentiments, arguing that by restricting “gender-affirming care” to youth who claim they are transgender, these children would be “vilified.” The custody legislation adds another complication, Democrats feared.
“What does this bill mean for families?” Sen. Book asked Sen. Yarborough. “There’s a lot of fear from families that think they could lose access to their kids [under this bill],” she continued.
“This bill does not allow a court to easily break a custody arrangement or agreement,” Sen. Yarborough fired back. Instead, he explained, all this bill does is allow a parent to approach a Florida court and ask that their situation be considered in the case of a custody battle if one parent wants their child to receive sex reassignment treatment and the other does not.
HOURS-LONG PUBLIC TESTIMONY
The debate between Sens. Yarborough, Book and Davis was followed by hours-long public testimony by pro-LGBTQ pastors, activists, military members, doctors and children. The tone became increasingly aggressive:
“By signing this bill, it is an act of war and this will not go lightly. My people will die, and that blood – if you support this bill – will be on your hands,” an activist with Equality Florida shouted at the senators.
Several activists from Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida echoed similar sentiments, with one addressing the Republican lawmakers: “You all wanna be bigots! Shame on you for a lack of empathy!”
THANKED SEN. YARBOROUGH
In the midst of these emotional outcries, a proponent of SB 254 stood up and thanked Sen. Yarborough.
“[These procedures] leave children permanently sterile and marred for life. They leave children with negative long term effects… please protect the children by passing this bill,” the man in the audience proclaimed. Another proponent of the bill added, “Nobody has the right to play God! This bill is a good bill! The government needs to keep their hands off of our youth!”
At least fifty other activists testified in opposition of the bill, with some testimonies getting so emotional, they were asked to step down and eventually leave the committee hearing. “You want to commit trans genocide!” a member of Equality Florida yelled as she ran out of the room.
Debate amongst senators followed the emotional testimony. Democrat Sen. Rosalind Osgood explained that she’s hesitant about the bill because of its very complicated nature. “This isn’t as black and white as this is being presented,” she said. She explained that she knows that her colleagues who are supporting this bill don’t have hate in their hearts nor are they trying to intentionally hurt people. Despite being torn, Sen. Osgood eventually opposed the bill.
“KIDS SHOULD BE KIDS”
Wrapping up the four-hour session, Sen. Yarborough summed up his motivations by introducing the bill:
“The fact remains that when it comes to children, these treatments are experimental and I believe as lawmakers, we have to draw the line when life-altering procedures are affecting children. I believe kids should be kids and respectfully ask for the committee’s support,” the Republican senator stated.
With a vote split along party lines, the Senate Health Policy Committee advanced SB 254.