Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that a Florida law prohibiting gender-affirming care for transgender minors and imposing stringent restrictions on such treatment for adults is unconstitutional.

Senior Judge Robert Hinkle determined that the state overstepped its bounds by prohibiting transgender minors from receiving puberty blockers and hormonal therapies with parental consent. He also barred the state from requiring transgender adults to obtain treatment solely from a physician, excluding registered nurses or other qualified medical practitioners, and prohibited a ban on online treatment for transgender adults.

Hinkle asserted that transgender individuals have a constitutional right to access necessary and legitimate medical care, drawing a parallel between those opposing such care and those who historically opposed equality for minorities and women, citing the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Some transgender opponents invoke religion to support their position, just as some once invoked religion to support their racism or misogyny,” Hinkle wrote in his 105-page decision. “Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender.

“In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished,” he continued. “To paraphrase a civil-rights advocate from an earlier time, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office condemned Hinkle’s ruling, issuing a statement labeling it “erroneous” and vowing to appeal.

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the Court was wrong to override their wishes,” the statement said. “As we’ve seen here in Florida, the United Kingdom, and across Europe, there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children. These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children, and history will look back on this fad in horror.”

However, those who challenged the state law celebrated the decision.

Lucien Hamel, a transgender adult, issued a statement saying, “I’m so relieved the court saw there is no medical basis for this law — it was passed just to target transgender people like me and try to push us out of Florida.”

“This is my home. I’ve lived here my entire life,” he said. “This is my son’s home. I can’t just uproot my family and move across the country. The state has no place interfering in people’s private medical decisions, and I’m relieved that I can once again get the healthcare that I need here in Florida.”

A mother of one of the children who sued said, “This ruling means I won’t have to watch my daughter needlessly suffer because I can’t get her the care she needs.”

“Seeing Susan’s fear about this ban has been one of the hardest experiences we’ve endured as parents,” said the woman. She was identified in court documents only as Jane Doe and her daughter as Susan Doe to protect their privacy. “All we’ve wanted is to take that fear away and help her continue to be the happy, confident child she is now.”

DeSantis signed the law last year as he was preparing for a presidential campaign heavily focused on cultural issues.

“We never did this through all of human history until like, what, two weeks ago? Now this is something?” he told cheering supporters as he signed the bill. “They’re having third graders declare pronouns? We’re not doing the pronoun Olympics in Florida.”

During the trial, Florida’s legal team acknowledged that the state cannot prevent individuals from adopting a transgender identity, but argued that it has the authority to regulate medical care.

For minors, the sole treatments in question are puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones — for instance, administering testosterone to an individual assigned female at birth. Those undergoing treatment when the law was enacted in May 2023 were permitted to continue. Surgery, which is infrequent for minors, remained prohibited.

For adults, treatment was still permitted, but could only be performed by a physician, excluding advanced practice registered nurses or other professionals. It mandated that patients sign a consent form in person while in the same room as the doctor, meaning treatment could not be conducted via video call or online, a requirement not typically associated with other medical procedures. Violators could face criminal charges, and medical providers could lose their licenses.

Hinkle noted that Florida had long allowed treatment for gender dysphoria, the sensation that one’s gender identity does not align with their assigned sex at birth.

“But then the political winds changed,” Hinkle wrote. He was appointed to the bench by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Hinkle wrote that for 99% of individuals, their biological sex and gender identity coincide. However, for a small percentage, they differ. Hinkle stated that the state conceded this during the trial, even if some individuals disbelieve it and view transgender people as making a choice comparable to “whether to read Shakespeare or Grisham.”

“Many people with this view tend to disapprove of all things transgender and so oppose medical care that supports (it),” he said.

He emphasized that while the state acknowledges it cannot constitutionally prevent individuals from identifying as transgender and presenting themselves as they desire, several lawmakers made it clear through their comments that this was their objective.

At least 25 states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and the majority of these states are facing lawsuits.

The only other such law to be struck down as unconstitutional is the ban in Arkansas, which the state has appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Advocates are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to block Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

Judges’ orders are temporarily in place, halting enforcement of a ban in Montana and certain aspects of the ban in Georgia.