The two Florida medical boards weighing whether to impose rules dealing with gender-affirming care include members who have made large donations to Gov. Ron DeSantisas well as other Republicans.
It’s not unusual for appointees to boards in state government, ranging from regulatory posts such as the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicineto those who oversee state universities, to have been donors to the Governor or the Republican Party.
But the crowd noted the donations during meeting in Orlando Friday. There, a joint committee of the two medical boards agreed to draft a proposed amendment to its standard of care rules to prohibit physicians from providing their patients under the age of 18 with hormone and puberty blockers unless they are participating in an institutional independent review board clinical trial affiliated with a university. It contains no exceptions for patients currently being treated for gender dysphoria with puberty blockers or hormones
The boards did not restrict adults from receiving gender-affirming care.
“This is what $25,000 gets you,” one person shouted from the crowd after the boards, which took testimony from people who don’t live in Florida who have de-transitioned and supported the proposed amendments, as well as a German man whose transgender his killed himself.
The proposed changes will be discussed in Orlando on Nov. 4 by the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine. If approved by the full boards, as expected, the rule will be published.
Cardiologist Zachariah Zachariah, a member of the Board of Medicine and Chair of the board’s Joint Rules Committee, has long been recognized as a GOP fundraiser and donor in the state. While the bulk of his individual donations came when Jeb Bush was Governor, Zachariah gave $25,000 to DeSantis’ political committee in May.
Hector Villaa Tampa doctor who also sits on the Board of Medicine, donated $20,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis in late April. Tiffany Sizemore Di Pietromember of the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and joint rules committee member, is a medical advisor for Di Pietro Partners, which gave $15,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis in October 2021.
Other political donors to DeSantis include Dr. Michael Wasylik, who is on the Board of Medicine. He gave $3,000 to the Governor’s main campaign account in April. David Diamondthe current Chair of the Board of Medicine, donated $2,000 to DeSantis during his first run for Governor in 2018.
Maria Garcia, a lawyer from Coral Gables, gave $250 in April. dr. Sandra Schwemmerthe Chair of the Board of Osteopathic Medicine, donated $3,000 to DeSantis in 2018.
Before agreeing to a proposed draft rule, members of the joint committee heard from medical experts and members of the public, most of whom supported the proposed restrictions on gender-affirming care.
Many of the people who tested in support of the rule were from out of state and shared their stories about de-transitioning, including Chloe Cole and Zoe Hawes. relative Yaakov Sheinfeldwho lives in Germany, shared his story about his transgender son and the “cult that killed him.”
Cole tested at a public meeting in support of a rule that bans Medicaid from providing gender-affirming care to any beneficiary.
Hawes and Seinfeld tested in federal court in support of the Medicaid ban after an LGBTQ group challenged it and asked that a judge issue a temporary restraining order, a request that was rejected.
Sheinfeld’s 28-year-old transgender son died of a fentanyl and alcohol overdose after, as an adult, he had surgery. But when he was cut off after the allotted three minutes, he refused to stop speaking, shouting that he had something to say and that he had traveled six hours from Germany to appear before them.
It was the second time that public testimony on the issue has been cut short and, advocates for gender-affirming care say, their voices were not heard. The Board of Medicine cut off public debate on the issue early at a Ft. Lauderdale meetingdenying dozens of people who had traveled there the ability to testify.
Zachariah, who Chaired Friday’s joint committee hearing, told Florida Politics he read the names in the order they were given to him by Department of Healthstaff. He started asking for public testimony from both supporters and opponents later in the meeting.
Meanwhile, two Orlando Democrats, reacted angrily to a decision to end testimony before all of those who had shown to oppose the rule had spoken.
“I have constituents in this room who were stripped away of their right to speak,” Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando said on Twitter. “Unacceptable but all too common under the DeSantis Administration.”
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith called the meeting a “sham.”
“They put all the speakers from out of state and out of the country who agreed with them first,” the Orlando Democrat said on Twitter. “When they ran out of people on their side, they cut off public comment from Floridians OPPOSED to the politicization of gender affirming care.”