On March 13, I witnessed our Florida Legislature take the first steps toward abridging the rights of perhaps the smallest of Florida minorities. This occurred at a committee hearing for the CS/SB 254 Treatments for Sex Reassignment (aka “Criminalizing Gender-Affirming Care”) bill.

As a registered voter, not registered to any party (Republican, Democrat or otherwise), I sincerely hoped our legislators would thoughtfully and seriously consider the ramifications of a bill that sought to curtail health care for mentally competent Florida residents.

I was very much mistaken. The Republican Party in the state of Florida, and perhaps the nation, is no longer the party of “small government.”

Regardless of what one may think regarding transgender issues, at the end of the day, we are all human beings. This includes transgender folks. “Freedom” doesn’t mean freedom for only the people I like, or who look, live, believe and think like me. It means we are all free to pursue life, liberty and happiness, except where one’s rights infringe upon another’s.

We respect our differences. That is democracy. That is what being an American is supposed to be. We are all worthy of these rights, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and in the preamble to the Florida Constitution.

I watched in disbelief as Florida Sen. Yarborough, who authored SB240, and the rest of the Republicans on the committee for this bill, save for one, ignored the public testimony of 100-plus human beings, many of whom were trans, or the parents of transgender children, or were simply proponents of holding all life sacred, including transgender life.

They ignored a pediatrician’s testimony, an American Pediatrics Association member, who testified about the 45 years’ worth of data that exists to guide physicians. These legislators ignored the correction made to Sen. Yarborough by a member of the public on the stance of the AACE (American Association of Clinical Endocrinology), clarifying that the AACE is 100 percent against the tenets of SB240.

Majority committee members ignored the mandate of the committee itself — which is to provide more access to health care for all Florida residents, as well as the usual precedent in cases of child custody, to do what is in the best interests of the child. In addition, public testimony was limited to 30 seconds per person.

When elected officials take office, I expect those officials to represent all constituents in their district. I expect officials to uphold the tenets of the U.S. Constitution as well as the Florida Constitution.

The underlying principle should be “country over party” or “human beings over party” or “truth over party.”

When officials, of any party (or people in general), blindly follow ideology and refuse to revise preconceptions, biases and their own ignorance — in the face of new, bona fide information — or seek to limit exposure to contrary or more-well-informed information, or when they consciously misrepresent expertise, tyranny flourishes.

— De Grave lives in DeLand.


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