Florida Governor Signs Anti-Trans Sports Bill on First Day of Pride

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill banning transgender women and girls from participating on school sports teams.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bill on the first day of Pride month prohibiting transgender women and girls from playing on public school sports teams — and then he vetoed funding for LGBTQ initiatives in the state.

The so-called “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” bans transgender female athletes from participating in middle school, high school, and college sports. Legislators would enforce this law based on the sex listed on a student’s birth certificate, the governor said. Previously, the legislation required invasive genital inspections to confirm the student’s sex assigned at birth — though that part was removed from the latest version of the bill.

“As a father of two daughters, I want my girls, and every girl in Florida, to compete on an even playing field for the opportunities available to young women in sports,” DeSantis said in a written statement. “Women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities in athletics, and we have to prevent those opportunities from being eroded as is happening in other states. It’s common sense.”

DeSantis did not stop there. He further targeted queer Floridians by vetoing funding for LGBTQ initiatives such as queer homeless youth services and mental health programs for Pulse massacre victims. Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, slammed DeSantis for the back-to-back attacks on LGBTQ folks in the state.

“Let’s be clear about what this is: Governor DeSantis has declared war on Florida’s LGBTQ community.” said Brandon Wolf, who serves as the media relations manager for Equality Florida and is a survivor of the Pulse massacre. “Before the 2019 Remembrance Ceremony, Governor DeSantis stood on hallowed ground, steps from where I escaped the building in 2016, and promised me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Today, almost two years later to date, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget.”

The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization, has received more than 8,500 crisis contacts in Florida over the last year. Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, said they are appalled by the governor’s decision to move forward with the anti-trans sports bill.

“On the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month — and after a year in which more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered attempting suicide — it is unconscionable that Florida politicians would go out of their way to target trans youth,” Brinton said in a written statement to Gay City News. “This group of young people desperately needs more support, not to be further marginalized and attacked by those in positions of power.”

They added, “These sports bans are as unfair and unnecessary as they are dangerous. When a trans young person is told they cannot play the sport they love solely because of who they are, it can be incredibly harmful to their mental health and sense of self and contribute to increased risk for suicide. This Pride Month, and every month, we must send a strong message to transgender and non-binary youth that they should be proud of who they are and deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is threatening to take legal action against the state for the legislation.

“The Human Rights Campaign will always stand up to anti-equality forces on behalf of transgender kids, and that is exactly what we plan to do by legally challenging this ban on the participation of transgender girls and women in sports,” Alphonso David, president of the HRC, said in a written statement. “Governor DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are legislating based on a false, discriminatory premise that puts the safety and well-being of transgender children on the line. Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team.”

The legislation comes amid a series of bills targeting trans athletes across the nation, including in Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Laws targeting trans folks in other areas are also continuing to move through State Legislatures. On May 17, Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee signed HB 1182, a law demanding that businesses post a sign if they allow trans folks to use the bathroom. The legislation will go into effect on July 1, but Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk is not planning on enforcing the law.

“I believe every person is welcome and valued in Nashville. Enforcement of transphobic or homophobic laws is contrary to those values,” Funk said in a statement to the Tennessean. “My office will not promote hate.”

Earlier that month, Lee signed the “Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act” targeting bathroom and locker room access for transgender students. Under this law, individuals can sue a public school if they encounter “a person of the opposite sex” in a multi-occupancy school bathroom, locker room, or if they are required to dorm with a person of another gender during a school trip.

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