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The nation’s top LGBTQ rights group is promising to sue the state of Florida after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a law barring transgender youth from competing in sports based on their gender identity.
Appearing at Trinity Christian Academy, a Christian school in Jacksonville, on the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month, DeSantis signed the bill into law and touted it as a measure intended to protect female athletes from being forced to compete against transgender females who, particularly if they are not on puberty blockers, may retain a competitive advantage.
“We believe in the state of Florida protecting the fairness and integrity of women’s athletics,” DeSantis said in his remarks. “…I can tell you that in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports.”
A standalone bill imposing the trans sports ban died earlier this year, but the ban was eventually added as an amendment to a charter school bill and approved along partisan lines, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The original bill would have mandated genital inspections and physical examinations of athletes in order to ensure transgender athletes are not competing on sports teams that match their gender identity. But the amendment that was approved simply relies on the sex listed on the athlete’s original birth certificate.
In response to a question about the message being sent by signing the bill at the beginning of Pride Month — which some LGBTQ advocates and allies see as an attempt to “troll” opponents of the ban — DeSantis said: “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness and women’s sports.”
DeSantis also dismissed warnings that the NCAA might pull sporting events from the state in response to the bill, saying he would not allow corporations or the NCAA to “dictate the policies in this state,” effectively calling the organization’s bluff.
While the NCAA warned potential host cities that they are expected to provide a “welcoming environment” for all athletes and fans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the organization has failed to yank events from states that have passed anti-LGBTQ or anti-transgender laws, as it did with North Carolina in 2016 following passage of that state’s infamous HB 2 “bathroom bill.”
In fact, the pro-LGBTQ sports advocacy organization Athlete Ally, along with media advocacy organization GLAAD, blasted the NCAA for holding events in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee in recent weeks, accusing the collegiate sports organization of backtracking on its promise to ensure “that all championships are able to foster an environment free of discrimination.”
Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, promised during a virtual news conference on Tuesday that the LGBTQ rights organization would file a lawsuit challenging the law, predicting that opponents of LGBTQ equality would ultimately lose the battle over transgender inclusion.
“Gov. 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,” David said in a statement. “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. Transgender youth must not be deprived of the opportunity to learn important skills of sportsmanship, healthy competition, and teamwork.
“The harmful provisions added to SB 1028 will not just impact transgender people in Florida. All Floridians will have to face the consequences of this anti-transgender legislation — including economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation,” David added. “In Florida, we are ensuring that there are legal consequences to pay for being on the wrong side of history.”
The right-wing legal organization Liberty Counsel, which opposes legal protections for the LGBTQ community, praised DeSantis for signing the bill.
“We commend Governor Ron DeSantis for protecting girls’ and women’s opportunities to excel in sports. Female athletes train hard to compete and should not lose titles, records, and scholarships that are rightfully theirs and even incur serious sports-related injuries by competing against males,” Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement.
But opponents of a trans ban have argued that the bill targets transgender and gender-nonconforming students for discrimination, and will only serve to exacerbate feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation, severely impacting their mental health. They also noted that transgender athletes in Florida have not won significant titles or athletic honors over cisgender athletes.
Openly gay State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) tweeted his disdain for the governor’s actions.
“First day of LGBTQ Pride Month and Gov. Ron DeSantis signs SB 1028 which bans trans kids from school sports,” he wrote. “[Florida High School Athletic Association] has allowed trans kids to participate in FL since 2013 with ZERO problems. This fuels transphobia and puts vulnerable kids at risk for no good reason.”
Gina Duncan, the director of transgender equality with Equality Florida, blasted the bill as “hateful and overtly discriminatory,” arguing that backers are “not concerned about athletics.”
“They simply don’t believe that transgender people exist. … It’s not an accident that when transphobia is spewed from the highest levels of leadership, trans kids take the brunt of that bigotry,” Duncan said in a statement. “This bill is shameful. This bill is violent, and it just made the world less safe for our most vulnerable young people.”
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