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Florida bills that will alter the lives of transgender people await DeSantis’ signature

<i>Justin Ide/Reuters</i><br/>Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen here at Liberty University in Lynchburg
Justin Ide/Reuters
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen here at Liberty University in Lynchburg

By Steve Contorno, CNN

Florida lawmakers have sent to the desk of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis a slate of bills that will alter the lives of transgender people in Florida — including their access to health care and everyday amenities.

DeSantis, who is nearing a likely campaign for president in the coming weeks, is expected to sign them.

Lawmakers gave final passage on Thursday to a bill that prohibits transgender children from receiving gender-affirming treatments, including prescriptions that block puberty hormones or sex-reassignment surgeries. Under the legislation, a court can intervene to temporarily remove a child from their home if they receive gender-affirming treatments or procedures. The bill treats such health care options, which are supported by the American Medical Association, the same as it would a case of child abuse.

Another bill, which passed the state Senate on Wednesday, restricts teachers, faculty and students from using the pronouns of their choice in public schools. That bill declares that it must be the policy of all schools that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait” and “it is false” to use a pronoun other than the sex on a person’s birth certificate.

The state House on Wednesday also passed a bill that prohibits transgender people from using a bathroom or changing room that matches their gender identity while in government buildings, including in places like public schools, prisons and state universities.

The three bills now await final approval from DeSantis before becoming law.

As he lays the groundwork for his White House bid, DeSantis has made these anti-transgender efforts a focal point of his speeches around the country. He has referred to gender-affirming surgery as “chemical castration” and has often attacked efforts by schools and workplaces to accommodate transgender students and employees as “wokeness” or indoctrination.

Gender-affirming care spans a range of evidence-based treatments and approaches that benefit transgender and nonbinary people. The types of care vary by the age and goals of the recipient, and are considered the standard of care by many mainstream medical associations.

DeSantis did not always lean into the GOP gender wars. As a candidate for governor in 2018, he said the state should “stay out of” the brewing battles in Republican-controlled state Houses over transgender bathroom access.

“Getting into bathroom wars, I don’t think that’s a good use of our time,” he said at a GOP primary forum hosted by the Florida Family Policy Council, a Christian right organization.

But DeSantis’ posture changed in 2021 when he signed a contentious bill that prohibited transgender women and girls from participating in female scholastic sports.

Last year, the governor became a forceful proponent of a bill that banned the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity for students through third grade. The bill, which DeSantis signed into law, drew national condemnation, including from the White House. It attracted opposition from Disney, setting off an ongoing clash between DeSantis and the entertainment giant.

Through that fight, DeSantis became a leader in the right’s latest cultural battles and sparked copycat legislation in states across the country. His appointees on the state board of education recently voted to expand the prohibition on teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to all grade levels.

The recent red-state pushes to limit the rights of transgender people began with efforts to ban transgender girls from girls’ sports and have expanded in recent years to include efforts to restrict drag shows, prohibit gender-affirming care for minors, limit what teachers can discuss and ban certain books from school libraries. Florida lawmakers have also sent to DeSantis a bill that makes it easier for the public to flag books in schools to be pulled and another that would give his administration the power to take away licenses from establishments if they allow children into an “adult live performance,” widely interpreted as a crackdown on drag shows.

Erin Reed, a transgender legislative analyst and researcher who has been monitoring anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures, recently told CNN she is tracking 515 anti-trans bills this year.

Equality Florida, a leading state LGBTQ civil rights group, recently issued a travel advisory, warning of “the risks posed to the health, safety, and freedom of those considering short or long term travel, or relocation to the state.” Meanwhile, Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade recently said he left Florida because he was afraid his family “would not be accepted.” The retired NBA star’s 15-year-old daughter came out as transgender in 2020.

“Who would move here if this is the atmosphere that we are creating?” Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky said during floor debate on Wednesday. “Trans is a fact of life. Gay is a fact of life. You can’t legislate away the gay as much as you might try.”

The state’s chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, said earlier this week that people in Florida “know they’re living in a state that their children are going to be free from woke, that we’re going to have bathrooms made for men and women and not for whatever gender you want to call yourself.”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Eric Bradner and Kit Maher contributed to this report.

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