Senator proposes bill giving state “emergency jurisdiction” over custody of kids with trans parents

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A proposed bill in the Florida State Senate would allow the state to take “emergency jurisdiction” over children who receive or are at risk of receiving gender-affirming care, as well as those whose parents or siblings receive it. The Florida law would also allow the action to be taken outside of the state.

Senate Bill 254, introduced on Friday by Jacksonville State Senator Clay Yarborough, would grant the court authority to take emergency custody of children who receive or are “at risk of” receiving gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and surgeries or procedures that affirm a person’s perception of his or her sex if that perception is inconsistent with the person’s sex at birth.

The proposed bill defines such procedures as “sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures.”

READ: LGBTQ groups decry new Florida bill they describe as ‘Don’t Say Gay 2.0′

The state would be able to take temporary custody of children if “it is necessary for an emergency to protect the child because the child or a sibling or parent of the child” is “at risk of or is being subjected to the provision of sex reassignment prescriptions or procedures,” according to the proposed bill text.

The court would also be granted “jurisdiction to vacate, stay, or modify a child custody determination of a court of another state to protect the child from the risk of being subjected to the provision of sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures,” according to the proposed bill.

Gender-affirming health care for transgender individuals is supported by most major accredited medical organizations.

The bill has been met with criticism from advocacy groups and legal experts, who argue that it violates the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming children and infringes on the rights of parents to make healthcare decisions for their children.

According to Alejandra Caraballo, a former staff attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and current clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, the proposed legislation would enable the “legal kidnapping” of transgender children and is just one aspect of the “full-on war” being waged against trans people in Florida.

“The bill goes even further to violate interstate comity by authorizing the courts to vacate child custody determinations of other courts only if the child is trans. This is a greenlight to transphobic family members to engage in state-sponsored kidnapping,” Caraballo said, adding: “A transphobic parent could kidnap their trans child in violation of custody agreements and abscond to Florida and be protected by Florida law under this despite likely committing felony kidnapping in their home state.”

Florida House Representatives Randy Fine and Ralph Massullo proposed a separate bill on Friday that, if passed, would make it illegal for doctors to provide gender-affirming care including puberty blockers and hormone therapy to minors.

READ: Florida lawmakers seek to ban gender-affirming care for transgender kids, punish doctors involved

The state of Florida has seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ bill proposals and laws in recent years, including DeSantis’ controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which limits how teachers may instruct about sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposed bill, which is currently making its way through the state Senate, has yet to be voted on.

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