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Florida Law May have Trans Children's Parents Battling for Custody

Tennessee has become the first U.S. state to pass a law restricting drag performances. Additionally, it recently banned gender-affirming health care for transgender youth, and the American Civil Liberties Union will challenge both statutes in court.

The law was signed by Gov. Bill Lee (R) on Thursday, and it prohibits “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” from appearing “on public property” or “in places where an individual other than an adult could watch the adult cabaret performance.”

The proposed law will take effect later this year, according to The New York Times.

ACLU of Tennessee director Stella Yarbrough said in a statement that the ACLU would challenge enforcement of the law if it were used to punish drag performers or shut down family-friendly LGBTQ events.

As Florida starts its next legislative session this week, one bill among a wave of legislation targeting LGBTQ+ rights would allow state courts to remove trans minors from their parents’ custody if the child receives or is “at risk” of receiving gender-affirming healthcare.

The GOP-sponsored SB 254 would also reach across state lines to authorize Florida courts to “vacate, stay or modify a child custody determination of a court of another state,” effectively denying parents who are supportive of their child’s gender transition in so-called “safe states” custody of their children.

“This is becoming interstate legislative warfare over trans youth,” posted trans activist Erin Reed.

The legislation would enable one parent opposed to their child’s transition to seize them from the other and stop treatment.

The bill, introduced by State Sen. Clay Yarborough (R), would grant Florida courts authority to take “emergency jurisdiction” of trans youth who receive or may receive puberty blockers and hormone therapy, or what the bill calls “sex-reassignment prescriptions,” and other gender-affirming care.

The bill defines those procedures as “serious physical harm.”

“Parents would be charged with felonies and thrown in prison,” posted Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former Florida House lawmaker, and the state’s first LGBTQ+ Latino legislator. “This is fascist.”

SB 254 would also require healthcare providers to affirm they don’t provide treatment for children younger than 18 or face losing their license.

The bill’s assertion that Florida courts have jurisdiction to override another state’s child custody determinations is likely to be disputed by other states.

Alejandra Caraballo, trans activist and clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, posted to Twitter that SB 254 amounts to the “legal kidnapping of trans children.”

“The bill extends even further to violate interstate comity by authorizing the courts to vacate child custody determinations of other courts only if the child is trans,” Caraballo wrote. “This is a green light for transphobic family members to engage in state-sponsored kidnapping.”

Reed agreed, adding that the bill is evidence the U.S. is “splitting into states with safe state laws protecting parents and anti-trans states allowing kidnapping.”

SB 254 is one of three bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community introduced this session by state Sen. Yarborough.

SB 1320 would bar Florida public schools from requiring employees, contractors, or students to use someone’s preferred pronouns if they do not correspond with their sex assigned at birth. It would also ban classroom instruction or discussion related to sexual orientation or gender identity through eighth grade, and that ban currently runs through third grade.

SB 1438 addresses the controversy surrounding a performance of the touring show “A Drag Queen Christmas” last December, which conservative media seized on, falsely claiming children were being exposed to sexually deviant behavior. The legislation would revoke the license of any “public lodging” that admits a child to a so-called “adult live performance.”


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