TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A group of LGBTQ+ and health advocacy organizations announced the filing of a federal lawsuit challenging a new rule prohibiting transgender Medicaid recipients in Florida from accessing gender-affirming care.

The suit, Dekker, et al., v. Marstiller, et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, on behalf of four plaintiffs: two adults and two minors. One plaintiff, August Dekker, 28, lives in Hernando County.

“It has been extremely stressful to have to worry about whether I will be able to get the medical care that I need and which is recommended by my doctors. This new Medicaid rule denies me the ability to access treatment that I cannot otherwise afford,” Dekker said.

The rule, which went into effect on Aug. 21, set certain parameters for coverage for Medicaid recipients in Florida. It says the state will not allow treatments for gender dysphoria to be covered, including puberty blockers, hormones, surgeries and “any other procedures that alter primary or secondary sexual characteristics”.

The plaintiffs and groups backing them say gender-affirming care is not optional or cosmetic in nature. They claim the rule is illegal because it targets the plaintiffs and other Floridians solely because they are transgender. Katy DeBriere, Legal Director at Florida Health Justice Project, said the new rule is “indefensible”.

“With this indefensible rule, the state is targeting low-income transgender Floridians. The rule intends to cut-off access to medically necessary care for the plaintiffs and other transgender individuals covered by Medicaid,” DeBriere said.

Simone Chriss, Director of the Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel, criticized the rule for being ‘anti-science’ and choosing ideology over medical consensus.

“The State of Florida has chosen to ignore the evidence, the science, and the consensus of medical professionals in a shameful effort to gain political points,” Chriss said. “This dangerous, scientifically-flawed ban strips medically necessary, life-saving healthcare away from the transgender Floridians with the least access to resources.”

The parents of an unidentified 12-year-old plaintiff chose to remain anonymous as they challenge what they call a “cruel and dehumanizing” rule.

“We believe providing our daughter with the medical care that she needs and is recommended by her doctors for her gender dysphoria is imperative to ensure her health and well-being,” the parents said. “It’s frustrating to know that the same medications and care that are provided to other children for different medical reasons, will not be provided to our child.”

The plaintiffs allege the rule will have a serious impact on their quality of life and their health.

“Everyone deserves to exist in a way that feels safe, yet this ban will impact so many transgender Medicaid beneficiaries like me with very negative effects on our physical and mental health and our lives,” said Dekker. “It’s truly awful and unfair to feel like the state is targeting your existence,”

Lambda Legal, Southern Legal Counsel, Florida Health Justice Project and National Health Law Program filed the suit alongside international law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

A recent AHCA report found several services for treating gender dysphoria, such as sex reassignment surgery, cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers are experimental and investigational with the potential for harmful long term affects.

Communications Director Brock Juarez responded to the lawsuit Wednesday. He sent this email to 8 On Your Side:

That said, it is perplexing that the media would be made aware of a lawsuit challenging our Medicaid Rule before our own Agency had even been alerted. I am sure this is simply a coincidence. These partisan motivated organizations seem to be so blinded by their own political agenda that they ignore the evidence found in our thorough rulemaking process and in the AHCA report that proceeded it. Under our rules, only treatments that are found to be safe, effective, and that meet medical necessity criteria may be covered. That is precisely what the Agency has done here.