More than 100 Florida elected officials sign letter opposing trans youth sports ban

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More than 100 Florida elected officials have signed onto a letter opposing the recently passed bill banning trans girls and women from school sports. Members of Congress, the state House and Senate, local officials and Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to reverse course and “let kids play.”


Orlando area Democrat Anna Eskamani is one of 31 state legislators to sign the letter. She was a staunch opponent of the bill throughout the legislative session.

“This sign on letter of myself and over 100 elected officials in Florida demonstrates solidarity with our trans kids and our families who are directly impacted,” she said. “We’re urging the Governor to not sign this bill and to take a commitment to LGBTQ+ equality.” 

The bill and the amendment

The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” was tacked onto Senate Bill 1028 as an amendment after the original bill’s sponsor, Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel, took it off a committee calendar. It passed in the final days of the 2021 session as part of the larger SB1028 with no additional public comment.

If the bill becomes law, it would ban trans girls and women from participating in school sports. Supporters of the legislation said trans girls could have a physical advantage in sports. But during debate, sponsors in the both legislative chambers couldn’t identify any instance in Florida where trans girls playing sports created an issue.

“It’s a complete farce. I am a woman and I refuse for my identity to be used as a tool of division and a tool to attack trans kids,” Eskamani said. “It further demonstrates to me that this is not about what’s best for our state. It’s not about solving problems it’s about creating fake problems and further dividing our state while attacking our trans kids along the way.”

Without merit

There hasn’t been evidence nationally either. A Connecticut girl tried to sue a trans girl in federal court to block her from competing on a girl’s track team. The lawsuit was struck down and the cisgender girl went on to beat the trans girl during a state championship.

More than 72 local officials signed onto the letter, which was authored by Equality Florida. Tampa and St. Pete’s mayors signed. Luis Viera was the only Councilmember to do so in Tampa, but three St. Pete councilmembers signed. One Pinellas schoolboard member signed and one commissioner. In Hillsborough, one signed from each the county commission and school board as well. Jessica Vaughn was the only Hillsborough School Board Member to sign.

“I feel like it’s my job to protect our children and our students,” Vaughn said. “And to make sure that our schools and every environment where our children attend are welcoming, nurturing places where all of our students feel safe and valued and respected. I feel like this bill is the antithesis of that.”

Protecting the vulnerable

Trans youth are among the most vulnerable in the state. The letter points out higher rates of violence and marginalization trans youth face.

 Last year, the Trevor Project released its National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020. The survey found 40 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide; a third had been physically threatened or harmed; nearly a third were kicked out of a home and almost half sought counseling from a mental health professional but couldn’t get access.

“There’s already so much stigma and discriminatory behavior and abuse that’s heaped upon them as they live their authentic lives that this just encourages that,” Vaughn said.

A costly piece of legislation

The bill could be costly for Florida as well. Major sports organizations and corporations, like the NCAA have indicated they’d limit operations in states that pass laws seen as anti-trans and LGBTQ.

The bill also mimics legislation being passed through statehouses across the country. Including an Idaho law passed last year that was already struck down in federal court.

“It’s a damaging piece of legislation not just for our economy but on a personal level in telling trans kids that they are less than human and they can’t participate in a team sport,” Eskamani said. “Their intention in playing a game is just to be a kid. And playing in sports at a middle school and high school level is how so many folks develop leadership skills, build relationships, teamwork and confidence. So they can continue to be their authentic selves anywhere they go in life.”

Full letter:

“We, the below signed elected public servants of the State of Florida, denounce any efforts to discriminate against our state’s transgender youth. We stand united to oppose all attempts to enshrine anti-LGBTQ+ legislation into law and reject efforts to exclude transgender people from public life, including participation in sports. The recent action from leaders in the Florida Capitol that removes transgender youth from teams and  categorically bans transgender students from future participation in sports is discriminatory and creates enormous risk for schools and universities tasked with implementing a poorly constructed policy that threatens expensive lawsuits if transgender young girls are allowed to play. These measures threaten our economy even as we work daily to rebuild the industries most harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Industries that are most impacted by the terrible signals this sends about who we are. Florida is a state that should be open for all. A state where every visitor, business, resident, and player can thrive.

We, the undersigned, recognize that our transgender youth are our state’s most vulnerable. They are most likely to experience violence or to be marginalized in their communities. As elected leaders we should be working to build the understanding of our communities about their unique needs. The anti-trans attacks from our state leaders are deeply troubling, are rooted in anti-LGBTQ animus, and must be challenged. We stand in stark contrast to this animus and stand together in our commitment to create communities that embrace diversity and inclusion for all Floridians – especially transgender Floridians. 

Let’s be clear.  The transgender youth sports ban is a threat to all Floridians. The consequences for states that have passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws are clear. States like North Carolina, Texas and Georgia have lost billions in revenue from lost conventions, canceled tournaments and tourism boycotts after passing anti-LGBTQ laws. We stand together with the Miami Heat, Misfits Gaming Group, and the NCAA who oppose this legislation to block trans youth from playing in secondary and post-secondary schools.

For over a decade, athletics in Florida have been guided by policies that balance the competitive nature of sports with the necessity to give transgender students access to the educational, development, and leadership opportunities that participating on a sports team can provide. Reversing existing policy and replacing it with an unwarranted blanket ban is wrong.

Transgender youth deserve our love and support, not cruel attacks because of who they are. We celebrate our diversity in Florida as our strength and believe that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should have the freedom to be who they are. All Floridians, including transgender Floridians, deserve the opportunities, education, and freedoms that come from the ability to play.

We call on the Governor and all elected leaders to reverse this dangerous path and allow existing guidelines, not fear and ignorance to prevail.

The undersigned stand together in our commitment to, ‘Let the Kids Play.'”

List of Signatories

Last Updated (list in formation): May 12, 2021
Total signers: 109

Florida Cabinet 

1. Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole “Nikki” Fried

Members of Congress

  1. Congressman Charlie Crist
  2. Congressman Ted Deutch
  3. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy
  4. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
  5. Congressman Darren Soto

State Senators and Representatives

  1. State Senator Lori Berman
  2. State Senator Shevrin Jones
  3. State Senator Jason Pizzo
  4. State Senator Tina Polsky
  5. State Senator Darryl Rouson
  6. State Senator Linda Stewart
  7. State Senator Victor Torres
  8. State Representative Kristen Arrington
  9. State Representative Robin Bartleman
  10. State Representative Christopher Benjamin
  11. State Representative Kevin Chambliss
  12. State Representative Dan Daley
  13. State Representative Tracie Davis
  14. State Representative Fentrice Driskell
  15. State Representative Nicholas Duran
  16. State Representative Anna Eskamani
  17. State Representative Joy Goff-Marcil
  18. State Representative Margaret Good (former)
  19. State Representative Michael Gottlieb
  20. State Representative Carlos Guillermo-Smith
  21. State Representative Omari Hardy
  22. State Representative Adam Hattersley (former)
  23. State Representative Christine Hunschofsky
  24. State Representative Evan Jenne
  25. State Representative Andrew Learned
  26. State Representative Angie Nixon
  27. State Representative Michele Rayner
  28. State Representative Joe Saunders (former)
  29. State Representative Kelly Skidmore
  30. State Representative Allison Tant
  31. State Representative Geraldine Thompson

Local Elected Officials

  1. Alachua County Commissioner Mary Alford
  2. Boca Raton Councilmember Monica Mayotte
  3. Boca Raton Councilmember Yvette Drucker
  4. Brevard County School Board Member Jennifer Jenkins
  5. Brevard County Soil & Water Conservation Supervisor Chelsea Partridge
  6. Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief
  7. Broward County School Board Member Debra Hixon
  8. Broward County School Board Member Rosalind Osgood
  9. Broward County Property Appraiser Marty Kiar
  10. Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott
  11. Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor Emma Collum
  12. Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor Alissa Schafer
  13. Boynton Beach Vice Mayor Ty Panserga
  14. Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross
  15. Coral Springs Commissioner Nancy Metayer
  16. Davenport Commissioner Brandon Kneeld (former)
  17. Delray Beach Commissioner Ryan Boylston
  18. Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Marilyn Davis
  19. Hallandale Beach Commissioner Sabrina Javellana
  20. Hollywood Commissioner Caryl Shuham
  21. Deerfield Beach Commissioner Bernie Parness
  22. Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steve Glassman
  23. Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Ben Sorensen
  24. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis
  25. Gainesville Commissioner Adrian Hayes Santos
  26. Haines City Commissioner Anne Huffman
  27. Hillsborough County Commission Vice Chair Kimberly Overman
  28. Hillsborough County School Board Member Jessica Vaughn
  29. Hollywood Vice Mayor Linda Sherwood
  30. Key West Commissioner Jimmy Weekley
  31. Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Sarah Malega
  32. Lake Worth Beach Vice Mayor Herman Robinson
  33. Largo City Commissioner Eric Gerard
  34. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell
  35. Miami Beach Vice Mayor Michael Gongora
  36. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber
  37. Miami Shores Mayor Crystal Wagar
  38. Miami Shores Village Vice Mayor Daniel Marinberg
  39. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava
  40. Miami-Dade School Board Member Luisa Santos
  41. Miami-Dade School Board Member Lucia Baez-Geller
  42. Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers (former)
  43. Monroe County Commissioner Mike Forster
  44. North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin
  45. North Miami Councilman Alix Desulme
  46. Oakland Park Commissioner Matthew Sparks
  47. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings
  48. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer
  49. Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan
  50. Osceola County Commission Chair Brandon Arrington
  51. Osceola County Commission Vice-Chair Viviana Janer
  52. Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth
  53. Parkland Commissioner Jordan Isrow
  54. Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo
  55. Pinecrest Councilmember Anna Hochkammer
  56. Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice
  57. Pinellas County School Board Member Caprice Edmond
  58. Plantation Councilmember Jennifer Andreu
  59. Plantation Council President Denise Horland
  60. Pompano Beach Mayor Rex Hardin
  61. Sarasota County School Board Member Shirley Brown
  62. St. Petersburg Council Vice Chair Gina Driscoll
  63. St. Petersburg Councilmember Amy Foster
  64. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman
  65. St. Petersburg Councilmember Darden Rice
  66. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor
  67. Tampa Councilmember Luis Viera
  68. Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey
  69. Tallahassee Mayor Pro Tem Jeremy Matlow
  70. Tallahassee Commissioner Jack Porter
  71. Wilton Manors Commissioner Mike Bracchi
  72. Wilton Manors Commissioner Julie Carson (former)