The full federal appeals court in Atlanta has vacated a ruling that upheld a Florida law barring doctors from asking patients whether they own firearms.
The full Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday it will hear the matter again.
Adopted in 2011, the Florida law forbids health care providers from asking about gun ownership by a patient’s family—or entering such information into a patient’s medical record—unless the health care provider believes that the information is “relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others.” The law says providers may not “discriminate” against patients on the basis of gun ownership and prohibits harassing patients about gun ownership. Violations subject the practitioner to possible discipline, including loss of a medical license.
The court first ruled on the matter in July 2014, when Judge Gerald Tjoflat joined with visiting U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler of Alabama to form a majority in favor of the state of Florida. Tjoflat said in his opinion then that the law was a valid regulation of professionals by the state, one that only incidentally affected speech. Judge Charles Wilson dissented, siding with the doctors.
The panel revised its rulings twice, but the vote remained the same. Now a majority of the 11 judges on the appeals court have voted to reconsider the matter.