Attorney General James Calls Out Florida Governor DeSantis for Violating Students' Right to Privacy

AG James Leads Coalition of 16 Attorneys General in Condemning DeSantis’ Request for Information on Public University Students Seeking Gender-Affirming Care

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of 16 attorneys general in sending a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expressing grave concern over his request for information about Florida public university students receiving gender-affirming care. In the letter, the attorneys general caution that Governor DeSantis’ request for this information will intimidate university administrators, health care providers, staff, and students and could prevent them from providing or accessing necessary, and often lifesaving, medical care. The attorneys general also have a strong interest in protecting the rights of the many students and staff members in the Florida state university system who are residents of their states. Citing federal protections against discrimination in accessing health care and proven links between the denial of gender-affirming care and negative health outcomes such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and suicidality, Attorney General James and her colleagues urge Governor DeSantis to immediately rescind his request for private health information.

“Decisions about health care should only be made between a patient and their doctor,” said Attorney General James. “Requiring transgender individuals to provide personal information about their health care to the state for no legitimate reason is dangerous and a serious violation of their privacy. I will continue to protect all New Yorkers — and every American — from those who would threaten their right to live full, happy, and healthy lives as their true selves.”

In January 2023, Governor DeSantis released a survey asking Florida state universities for information on the number and ages of students seeking gender-affirming care or treatment for gender dysphoria. This private information could be used to eliminate funding for necessary gender-affirming care for transgender students. Governor DeSantis has recently taken similar actions limiting health care access for transgender youth, such as cutting Medicaid funding for gender-affirming care and calling on the Florida Board of Medicine to prohibit the use of puberty blockers for people under 18.

These actions not only jeopardize the health and safety of young people and their families and ignore widely accepted medical standards, but they also unjustly insert the state into the private relationship between care provider and patient. In the past year, nearly 1 in 5 transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide, compared with 1 in 10 cisgender youth. Targeting the health care that transgender students rely on violates students’ rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as their right to freedom from discrimination in federally funded education institutions under Title IX.

In the letter, the attorneys general pledge their commitment to guaranteeing full equality and dignity for transgender individuals and assert that Governor DeSantis’ unjustified request for this information risks the lives and welfare of students and staff in the Florida state university system. Transgender young people are among the most vulnerable populations in the country, and transgender individuals of all ages already face steep barriers to obtaining basic health care. The attorneys general also note there is strong medical consensus that improving access to gender-affirming care saves lives and urge Governor DeSantis to rescind his information request without delay.

Attorney General James has been a national leader in supporting the rights of transgender individuals and fighting to preserve the right to privacy for medical decisions. In December 2022, she led a coalition of 16 attorneys general to protect access to gender-affirming care in West Virginia. In August 2022, Attorney General James led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in challenging an Indiana School District’s policy to prohibit transgender students from using bathrooms which corresponded with their gender identity. In November 2021, she co-led a coalition of 23 attorneys general challenging the same policy in a Florida school district, and in October 2021, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition of attorneys general to support transgender students seeking to participate in sex-segregated school sports consistent with their gender identity.

Joining Attorney General James in signing the letter are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and the District of Columbia.