Log in
Florida Legislature

Bankson's bill criticized for targeting transgender Floridians passed the House, but it’s unlikely to become law


Although the Florida Senate is unlikely to take up the issue, the Florida House passed a bill Friday that would require driver’s licenses to display a person’s sex assigned at birth, rather than the gender identity, and health insurers to cover treatment to de-transition from the sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures.

State Rep. Douglas Michael Bankson. Credit: FL House of Representatives.

The bill, HB 1639, passed along a party-line vote (75-33), with Democratic lawmakers saying it would put transgender Floridians in harm’s way.

But the Senate never even had a companion for the bill, which means its chances of making it to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk are slim to none. Still, it prompted more than 100 transgender rights advocates to protest the bill outside the Capitol on Wednesday.

Republican Rep. Doug Bankson, who represents Orange and Seminole counties, said that his bill was not an attack on trans-Floridians.

“The bottom line is this law: Governance must be tethered to fact not feeling. While we can have compassion on people who suffer from gender dysphoria or embrace that fully and say, ‘Don’t say that I’m suffering.’ That’s their choice. We’re not attacking that choice,” Bankson said. “We’re not then obligated either as a society to agree and then conform our laws and functions whether it’s restroom privacy, women’s sports, reeducation, or identification.”

Driver’s license changes

One of the bill's provisions, referring to the gender markers on driver’s licenses, has already become a reality for Floridians. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) changed its policy in January to no longer honor people’s requests to amend the gender marker on their driver’s licenses.

The change means that some transgender people may not be able to obtain a driver’s license with a marker that matches their gender identity.

“It’s about targeting one group of people. A marginalized group of people. Are we doing this because we want to be the most extreme? Because we want to get ahead of the curve and say ‘Oh, we found another way to punish transgender people.’ This is not needed,” said Broward County Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman.

Another concern lawmakers discussed was whether changing the driver’s license marker would prevent Florida from complying with the Real ID Act. If states do not comply with the act's standards, the driver’s licenses they issue cannot be used to enter certain federal facilities, nuclear power plants, or domestic flights.

“This bill would force trans people to be outed every single time they have to show their ID. This bill could also force any Florida traveler to have a passport or risk the inability to step on a domestic flight,” said Democratic Rep. Rita Harris of Orange County. “This would force us out of compliance with the Real ID Act of 2005. An act that was designed so all 50 states would be on the same page. Not some states get to choose what words mean.”

Bankson insisted that Florida is still compliant with the act.

Health insurance coverage

The health insurance portion of the bill states that companies cannot prohibit coverage of mental health or therapeutic services to treat someone’s perception that their sex is inconsistent with their sex assigned at birth.

Democratic lawmakers and Joe Saunders, the senior political director of civil rights group Equality Florida, pointed out that that language would allow conversion therapy to attempt to change someone’s gender identity. The American Psychiatric Organization stands against such therapies that don’t respect the identities of people with different gender expressions.

“Transgender people exist — and always will. This cruel bill weaponizes private insurance companies and state agencies to threaten the safety and inclusion of the transgender community, and it exists for the purpose of bullying transgender Floridians out of public life entirely,” Saunders said.

Opponents of the bill were using the “extreme example” of conversion therapy to silence opposition, Bankson said, affirming that it was not in the bill.

Florida Legislature, Rep. Doug Bankson, Florida House District 39, Transgender, Driver's License


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here