The law will go into effect July 1, although the nation's largest LGBTQ civil rights group has already vowed to file a lawsuit over the legislation

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Ron DeSantis
Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis
| Credit: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

This week Florida joined a growing number of Republican-led states who are banning transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity — a move that drew immediate backlash from advocates as "hate-driven."

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" on Tuesday.

GOP governors in Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi and Tennessee have all signed similar bills into law over the past year, ramping up a rising culture war between Democrats and Republicans over gender identity.

The bans are already being challenged in court, and Florida's law is likely to face a lawsuit as well.

Critics of including transgender athletes argue they have unfair physical advantages. But doctors and scientists say that is an oversimplification not supported by the facts.

"This is yet another hate-driven attack from the governor and Republican legislators, and it's insulting that they've staged this morning's photo-op on the first day of Pride Month," state Sen. Shevrin Jones said, according to the Associated Press. "At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids."

State Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Republican who backed the bill, argued the legislation was "simply about making sure that women can safely compete, have opportunities and physically be able to excel in a sport that they trained for, prepared for and work for."

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis
| Credit: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The new law will require women to show a birth certificate proving the gender they were assigned at birth before being allowed to participate in school sports. It also allows other women to sue a school if it allows a student who is transgender to play on the sports team that aligns with their current gender identity.

A previous proposal would have mandated transgender athletes undergo testosterone testing and potentially be subjected to a genital examination, according to the AP. Those provisions were removed before DeSantis signed the legislation Tuesday.

The law will go into effect July 1, although the nation's largest LGBTQ civil rights group has already vowed to file a lawsuit over the legislation.

The Human Rights Campaign said the recent slate of anti-transgender laws around the country are "fueled by discriminatory intent and not supported by fact."

"Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls," said HRC President Alphonso David. "Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team."

David continued: "Transgender youth must not be deprived of the opportunity to learn important skills of sportsmanship, healthy competition, and teamwork."

DeSantis framed the law as an effort to "protect women's sports and opportunities" by creating "a level playing field."

The governor also brushed off warnings from major school sports organizations like the NCAA, who said in April that it would consider moving lucrative sporting events out of states that take up anti-transgender laws.

Critics accused DeSantis of failing to provide widespread examples of when transgender athletes created an unequal playing field. Politico reported that, since 2013, there have been 11 transgender athletes who applied through the Florida High School Athletic Association to play on sports teams that differed from the gender listed on their birth certificate. 

DeSantis signed the law alongside a sprinter from Connecticut who said she lost races because she couldn't beat a competitor who was transgender.

The day he signed it also marked the beginning of Pride Month for the LGBTQ community.

Rick Kriseman, the Democratic mayor of St. Petersburg, accused DeSantis of "intentionally" choosing Tuesday to sign the law many critics see as anti-LGBTQ: "A disgusting act," he tweeted. "Wrong on so many levels."