Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial bill banning transgender girls from Florida school sports into law Tuesday, the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month. Protests and promises of legal challenges swiftly followed the signing.
The section of SB 1028 banning trans girls from sports was added to the bill at the last possible moment and pushed through the legislature with little regard for norms of the democratic process. There was limited debate and no public input.
Yet, despite the amendment, which is largely seen as discriminating against trans athletes, being a small part of a much larger education bill, the ban was the focal point of a DeSantisnews conference.
From a certain point of view
“We believe in the state of Florida, of protecting the fairness and integrity of women’s athletics,” he said.
The amendment’s title, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” emblazoned the front of the signing event’s podium.
DeSantis signed the bill at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, surrounded mostly by young girls. Florida has allowed trans athletes to participate in school sports since at least 2013. There have been no reports of any trans athletes having competitive advantages in Florida during that time.
Instead, DeSantis tried to justify the bill by bringing former Connecticut track athlete Selena Soule.
“During my junior year I was denied a chance to compete at the regional New England Championships,” Soule said. “I missed advancing to the next level of competition in the 55-meter dash by just two spots.”
Soule said those two spots went to trans girls. She even joined a federal lawsuit because of it. But what DeSantis did not mention was that suit was thrown out by a federal judge. And one of the girls suing, wound up beating one of those trans girls in competition.
‘Not supported by the facts’
“So the argument that transgender athletes have some competitive advantage and it manifests itself in competitions or participation in sports, generally, where transgender athletes are engaging, simply was not born out by the facts in that case,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said. “And yet, anti-equality forces are still using that case as a dog whistle to anti-equality extremists in order to advance an agenda. An agenda that is not supported by the facts and is deeply flawed.”
David spoke during an Equality Florida zoom conference after the signing. Representatives for Equality Florida said five rallies were immediately scheduled for Tuesday night. They were to be held in Orlando, along the Space Coast, in South Florida, Bradenton and Sarasota.
David also said legal challenges to the law are on the way. He said federal law already protects transgender individuals from any discrimination based on gender identity as expects that to nullify the law.
“We will be advancing our complaint shortly,” he said. “At which point we will outline the basis for the claims that we will be advancing.”
Florida’s transgender sports ban is part of model legislation crafted by special interest groups to advance political agendas at the state level across the country. A similar bill with the exact same title was passed in Idaho last year and has already been blocked by a federal court. Other similarly modeled bills have been making their way through state legislatures across the country.
Meg Titcomb is the mother of a trans girl who is now afraid to even tryout for school sports. Her daughter’s birth certificate says female and her testosterone count is lower than some of the other girls. But the new bill uses the gender on a birth certificate at the time of birth.
Titcomb said it’s difficult to try to explain the ban to a young girl when she can’t find a logical or legal rationale for it.
“It’s just not fair. It’s hard as a parent to tell your kid, ‘I’m sorry honey, you can’t play.’ And I can’t explain why,” she said. “And there’s nothing I can do about it other than move out of the state. We can’t all just keep moving around hoping to find a better life for our kids. That’s not the answer.”
The new law goes into effect July 1 and will disqualify currently participating trans girls from their sports. The NCAA has threatened to pull championships from states that pass such policies and other large corporations have pledged to limit operations in states that ban transgender athletes.