With Democrats decrying the “eleventh-hour” move, the Florida House and Senate on Wednesday revived and passed a controversial plan that would ban transgender female athletes from competing on high-school girls’ and college women’s sports teams.
The House tucked the transgender athlete proposal into an education measure and sent the revamped bill to the Senate. The Senate signed off on the proposal in a 23-16 vote late Wednesday, with one Republican — Gayle Harrell of Stuart — crossing party lines to join Democrats in opposition to the bill.
Under the measure on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis, female students’ eligibility for sports teams would be based on their “biological sex” on birth certificates issued “at or near the time of the student’s birth.”
A stand-alone Senate bill aimed at preventing transgender athetes from competing on girls’ and women’s teams stalled last week. But the issue re-emerged Wednesday as an amendment to the education bill (SB 1028) and quickly passed.
The transgender athlete issue has sparked some of the most-fierce debates of the 2021 legislative session, with critics arguing that a ban would target youths who are already at risk for suicide, ostracizing and bullying.
Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, said he has a transgender granddaughter who has faced numerous obstacles as she matured. He urged his colleagues to oppose the proposed ban Wednesday.
“We don’t need to destroy the lives of those children and their futures. If they want to play, let them play,” he said. “We don’t need this. We thought it was dead. But obviously, some don’t care. And we have to care.”
But Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who sponsored the stand-alone bill that stalled, defended the plan Wednesday, saying it is “common knowledge” that men are stronger than women.
“It’s not meant to be hurtful. It’s not meant to be discriminating. It’s not meant to attack any group,” Stargel said. “This is not about that. This is about sports and having competitive advantage and having the ability to compete.”
Rep, Kaylee Tuck, a Lake Placid Republican who had sponsored a stand-alone House bill on the issue, offered the amendment Wednesday. The action came with just two days left in the 2021 legislative session.
Stargel’s previous proposal included an exception for “persons who transition from male to female” if they meet certain conditions, such as specified testosterone levels. But she said Wednesday that such an approach was too complicated.
“We decided to go with the most simplistic, which is to say that women play on women’s sports and men are playing on men’s sports. I know it’s unfortunate for the number of students who are transgender, but we’re doing this so that women have the opportunity to participate, to get scholarships, to excel with other women of like strength and capability,” she explained.
Through a barrage of questions and a series of futile attempts to alter Tuck’s amendment, House Democrats lashed out at the proposed ban.
“The message that the bill sends is an ugly message of exclusion telling trans kids that who they are is not OK and that they need to change who they are and if they don’t change who they are and something happens to them, it’s their own fault. Members, that is not the message that we should be sending,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat who is gay, argued.
The proposal drew immediate pushback from LGBTQ advocates.
“Republican leadership is hellbent on harming transgender youth and kicking kids off of their soccer teams — and they’ve resorted to making backroom deals to resurrect and pass this bigoted bill in the final hours of legislative session,” Gina Duncan, director of transgender equality for the non-profit organization Equality Florida, said in a statement Wednesday evening.
The bill also includes a provision that would allow “any student who is deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers any direct or indirect harm” as a result of a violation of the transgender athlete ban to have a private cause of action “for injunctive relief, damages, and any other relief available under law” against a school or public postsecondary institution.
The measure also includes a provision aimed at preventing schools from retaliating against students who report that the transgender athlete ban is being violated.
Florida is among a number of states where Republican lawmakers have considered legislation to ban transgender females from participating on girls’ and women’s high-school and college sports teams. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a similar bill into law on Wednesday.
Critics of a ban argued that, if enacted, Florida could lose out on lucrative collegiate championship games.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the main governing body for college sports, released a statement this month about its affiliation with states considering legislation about transgender student-athlete participation.
“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” the statement said in part.
Tuck’s original proposal would have based eligibility on a student’s “biological sex” — a disputed term that refers to the sex assigned at birth — and included a dispute process to challenge a student’s eligibility.
Tuck noted Wednesday that the birth certificate is part of a “pre-eligibility” check conducted by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
“There is no longer a dispute process (in the amendment). So the birth certificate is already required in the pre-eligibility check to the FHSAA so there’s not going to be the ability for another student to challenge the biological sex,” she said, calling her amendment a “compromise.”
But Smith railed at Tuck, saying the “eleventh-hour” amendment came as a surprise and could create “real harm” for kids.
“We are told by the amendment sponsor that the underlying amendment is a compromise,” he said. “It’s a compromise … because we are no longer inspecting the genitals of children in our school. Members, not inspecting children’s genitals is not a compromise. The idea that we were doing it in the first place is absolutely insane, and people should be ashamed of themselves.”
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida
Deborah Coffey says
Republicans have been hateful for decades. Now, they’ve become hateful, sick, and murderous. They couldn’t care less that lots of these kids commit suicide because they are not accepted for the way they are. It’s so discouraging.
If you’re born a male/female you have two choices. Playing on the girls team or boys team depending on your gender. Sports has always been about fare play. Simply put play on the team that you where born with or don’t play.
Afraid the girls will show you up? Or worse, embarrass your son? The NFL and MLB aren’t nervous.
@Denali – Not happening. FC Dallas under-15 boys squad beat the U.S. Women’s National Team in a scrimmage. https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/a-dallas-fc-under-15-boys-squad-beat-the-u-s-womens-national-team-in-a-scrimmage/ LOL
I have been a member of the Republican Party since 1974. I have been several times very disappointed in things that have happened in my party over that time. NEVER have I been so disappointed and angry over the election of a total liar, disgraceful, immature, incompetent, sociopath, tyrant, maniac as our former president. He has succeeded in one thing and one thing only. He has opened the closet door for so many people just like himself to arise from the dark hell which they came from.
Now, these people control our state and local governments. How ignorant have we been to sit back and allow these morons to come into power which once held the meaning of dignity and pride.
To allow them to remain in office is a travesty of honor. They have shown no regret for their actions, which only amplifies their contempt for our democratic society.
Mark A says
Another glorious moment for the Florida Republicans. Reminds me of the law some years ago in Turkey requiring virginity test of the female students. If they didn’t pass they faced expulsion.
Something to think about Mr. DeSantis? You could be the first hero.
What does refusing to indulge someones delusions that they are a girl have to do with virginity tests? That’s king of a stretch.
Florida Girl says
My boys are in boxing. Never in this life should they think it is okay OR be asked to hit a girl, yet they are asked to in this sport. They tap out of the fight. I for one am glad to see this, I was really worried how this was going to play out with mine especially in completions as they grew into their sport.
@Different day, same old stuff
When all else fails they (elected Republicans) pick a fight with children of a lesser God: stage a lynching, yell fire; you name it – there is no bottom to how low they will go. And then, and then they run out the back door (last day of a session) carrying everything they can carry.
In floriduh, elected Republicans – and ONLY elected Republicans (for over 20 years now) have appointed ALL the judges: made ALL the laws and ALL the rules. There’s ONLY what elected Republicans have decided. Period.
Vote as if your life, and the life of the world you live in, depends entirely upon who and what you elect. It does.
I’m very happy that our governor is standing up for women’s rights.
Kara Lot says
Who in their right mind would think, even for a second, that it’s okay for a boy to compete in girls sports.
Great. Trans kids can play sports against other trans kids. They are not locked out. Boys are boys and girls are girls, no matter their feelings.
Joseph Costello says
I don’t see this as a political issue so much as I see it as a worldly cultural issue and lack of knowing who we are. Let me preface this by saying I am a Christian and believe the Bible is the irrefutable Word of God. Genesis 1:27 tells me God created male and female. This isn’t about how I feel, or my opinion, it’s about who God created us to be, in His image. There is a movie “in His image “ that speaks of this topic and includes the deliverance of those who have had such feelings. In the end, we will all be judged for every word spoken and judgement taken upon others. Probably why Jesus sums up the law for simple people like me in Matthew 22:37-40 and I paraphrase “love God, and love your neighbor as yourself”, and let me add (in His Words), pray for those who persecute you.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
What an insane world we live in. No amount of surgery will ever really change how GOD created you.
DeSantis pandering to the haters in the hope of winning the hate vote in 2024. The hate vote is quite powerful in Florida. I’m sorry you are all so hateful. Must be a terrible way to live.
1st parents complain thier kids need sports or it will damage them mentally and emotionally and now they want other kids to not play or be social. So as long as its your perfect kid in gods eyes you want them social but not others kids that may be different from your own. Got it.
Mike Cocchiola says
That’s right, conservatives. Knock them down then kick them. make them feel different, damaged and unworthy. All because of your own ignorant fears and prejudices.
Stupid is as stupid does.
Dude. Really? I’m not conservative. What are you talking about? Girls should be given their own space to compete with each other. Nobody is being knocked down or kicked. Life has disappointments, and not getting your way because you think you’re a girl isn’t damage. It’s life.
Democrats have always been two-faced hypocrites. Using racists tactics to expound their anti-racists narrative. Plus using racism as a political tool along with every other underhanded tactic they can find to grab ALL of the power they can seize before their rein of power collapses. And it will collapse just like the Roman Empire did.
One’s gender is not “assigned at birth”. One is born either male or female (with occasional hermaphroditic exceptions). This evidenced by the sexual organ of the newborn. Selah.