TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The Republican-dominated Senate further advanced bill SB 254, introduced by Sen. Clay Yarborough (R-Naussau & Duval Counties), that provides regulations on sex-reassignment procedures and prescriptions for minors.
Sen. Yarborough began by describing the goals behind the bill, which include: “Protecting Florida’s children; Requiring that when adults seek these treatments, treatments can only be approved after the patient has been informed of the nature and the risks of the treatment; And protecting against the expenditure of state funds for these sex reassignment treatments”. Violations of the regulations could lead to criminal charges.
“I filed this bill because I believe that as lawmakers, my colleagues and I hold the responsibility to draw the line when drastic life-altering gender-dysphoria therapies and surgeries are being prescribed for young children,” Sen. Yarborough stated.
Sen. Shervin D. “Shev” Jones (D-Miami-Dade) immediately voiced his concerns over the bill to Sen. Yarborough, and introduced two amendments - one of which would expand Telehealth for patients seeking gender therapies and another that would create an exception for children who are severely gender dysphoric to receive these treatments only if they were approved by two medical professionals. Despite Jones’ emotional testimony, both amendments failed.
Sen. Lori Berman (D-Palm Beach County) brought up concerns over the portion of the bill that restricts these treatments and procedures for adults. “Why are we suddenly worried about adults when this bill is supposed to be about ‘protecting children’?” she asked.
Public testimony followed debate between senators, and was filled with emotional stories from both proponents and opponents of the bill. A representative from Florida Rising proclaimed, “This [bill] is personally vile and disgusting to me…You are killing trans kids.”
His testimony was followed by an emotional speech given by parents of “an adult biological male who’s been identifying as trans for the past 6 years”. The couple explained that their son’s mental health dramatically worsened only after he was placed on hormones and that his transition process has left him in a horrible condition and in poverty. “I miss my son,” the mother cried, before she abandoned the podium.
Dr. Russell Meyer, a bishop of an evangelical church, spoke in opposition of the bill, stating, “As bishop of this church, I’m worried the rights of transgender and non-binary people have been targeted all over this nation…This bill is religious doctrine in disguise….let parents work with their doctors to decide what is right for their children.”
“A lot of these treatments have very high long term side effects,” followed a member of Florida Citizens Alliance, a fierce proponent of SB 254. He went on to point out that many European countries have banned similar procedures and surgeries in minors, as the negative long term repercussions aren’t even fully known yet.
Several trans-identifying members in the audience testified in opposition of the bill. A representative from Equality Florida asked the legislators, “Why are you afraid of transgender joy and happiness?” He was followed by another pastor who claimed that the bill is targeting an incredibly small portion of the population who are already struggling. “Who are you showing love to by passing this bill? No one,” he continued.
Despite the four hour debate and emotional testimonies, SB 254 advanced and is now heading to the Senate floor.