TALLAHASSEE – The GOP-controlled Florida House was controversial on Wednesday legislation Banning transgender athletes from playing girls’ sports and shifting attention to the Senate, where final approval is required to send the bill to Governor Ron DeSantis.
The 77-40 largely partisan vote, with all but one Democrat against it, came a day after the House Democrats held a session for hours to reduce the measure. GOP lawmakers say the bill is needed to protect the sanctity of women’s sport, but opponents claim it would only “legalize” bullying for transgender students.
“HB 1475 is purely political and plays with the fears and ignorance of the transgender community to score guerrilla points,” said openly gay lawmaker Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando), speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Florida House and Senate Republicans made women’s sport a priority in 2021, and have followed the path of more than 20 other GOP states using the issue to curtail transgender rights. LGBTQ advocacy groups like Equality Florida agree with the majority of Democrats on opposing the legislation, arguing it would create heightened stigma and misinformation regarding transgender students.
The idea problem was magnified on Monday when The NCAA made states like Florida aware of thisand warns that locations where not all student athletes are treated with “dignity and respect” may not be eligible for future championship games.
The Democrats attempted to capitalize on the NCAA’s stance on the Republicans by pointing out that Florida could lose millions in revenue if events relocated, much like the MLB did because of their all-star game moved from Atlanta to new voting laws in Georgia. However, this failed to affect the House GOP majority who upheld the bill to protect fairness in women’s sports.
“There is an inherent, biological, undeniable difference between men and women, boys and girls,” said Rep. Traci Koster (R-Tampa). “Put simply, we were designed differently.”
Democrats pushed back against this rhetoric, insisting that the legislation target LGBTQ rights rather than girls’ athletics.
“Sport has become yet another way to attack trans people’s rights,” said MEP Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando). “And these efforts have done incredible harm to the trans youth who, like all children, especially in the midst of a pandemic, deserve compassion and support.”
The House’s bill, known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, provides that Florida female sports teams are specifically designed for “biological” women and girls while creating a way for gender disputes to be resolved by requiring a doctor to check a student’s gender. The law would apply to K-12 and higher education students.
The Democrats tabled 19 amendments to the proposal during their first House hearing on Tuesday. You spent three hours going back and forth on questions and debates and asking Republicans to look into them.
A GOP lawmaker came forward to beat up the NCAA, claiming that Democrats falsely upheld the organization as a “moral compass.” Florida legislation has a history of sparring with the NCAA, including the last session of the legislature passed an invoice This allows student athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness and bypass the organization’s longstanding guidelines.
A member of the House of Representatives suggested that states that bans transgender sports should band together and form their own sports association to reprimand the NCAA.
“We know exactly what they will do when this bill is passed,” said MP Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) on Tuesday. “They’re doing the same thing for our student athletes right now – and that’s nothing. They treat them like free work.”
Now that the House of Representatives bill has been officially passed, it is the Senate’s turn to take action. FL SB2012 (21R) was scheduled for the final hearing on Wednesday but was temporarily postponed by sponsor Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) due to the busy rules committee agenda.
Stargel’s bill, which deviates from the House version by allowing athletes who declare themselves to be female to participate in the sport when their testosterone levels are below a certain mark, could reappear at a meeting on April 20.
“All eyes are on the Florida Senate to stop this cruel legislation and protect the transgender youth that this bill denigrates,” said Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director for Equality Florida.