Controversial transgender sports bill awaits full House vote

Democrats filed 19 amendments, trying to water-down the proposal.

A bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing on a women’s sports team now awaits a full House vote.

The bill (HB 1475) is among the most contentious proposals of the 2021 Legislative Session. Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck of Lake Placid is the bill sponsor.

Called the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, the proposal would prohibit transgender athletes from competing on female teams. It does not, however, ban transgender men from competing on male teams.

Tuck said the bill isn’t discriminatory and still allows transgender girls to compete on mens teams. Men, she contended, are at a biological athletic advantage.

“The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is designed to protect the integrity of competitive sports and to make sure that women and girls do not become sideline spectators in their own sports,” Tuck said.

Democrats filed 19 amendments trying to water down the legislation.

“The bill as it stands now is incredibly dangerous,” Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando said.

Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando proposed an amendment to exempt middle school and elementary students.

“Let the kids play,” Smith said.

Democratic Rep. Kristen Arrington of Kissimmee filed an amendment that would overhaul the gender dispute process.

Under the bill, a health care provider needs to verify a student’s gender by completing a sports physical examination. In the event of a dispute, examinations would assess reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup and/or testosterone levels.

Arrington’s proposal would shift testing costs onto the accuser.

“This bill, as it is, gives all the power to the accuser,” Arrington said.

Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg proposed an amendment to commission a race-focused study on the law’s impact.

Rayner contended the law will disproportionally impact minorities.

“This amendment will ensure the protection of young Black women and young Black trans women who have a life expectancy of 34 years.” Rayner said.

Republicans shot down all 19 amendments.

Tuesday’s reading comes a day after the NCAA put states, including Florida, on notice.

In a letter, the NCAA warned they may reconsider championship events in states that ban transgender women from competing in sports.

During questions, Smith warned that such action would mean economic pain in Florida. Moreover, he noted there are few if any instances of transgender athletes competing in women sports in Florida.

“This was a well thought out bill that was based on issues that we were seeing across the country,” Tuck later told members. “Just because there isn’t a problem here, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proactive in women’s sports.”

Notably, the NCAA letter is supported by more than 500 student athletes.

In early April, they wrote to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors, calling on the organization to deny championship events to states that institute prohibitive transgender policies.

Florida’s tug-of-war over transgender athletics underscores the nationwide debate.

Notably, roughly 25 other Republican-led states are sponsoring similar legislation, according to a staff analysis.

In 2017, the NCAA moved to boycott championship events in North Carolina. The decision came after lawmakers created a state law requiring transgender individuals to use public restrooms aligned with their genders at birth. North Carolina and the NCAA later reached an agreement but not before costing the state roughly $3.76 billion.

If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.

The Senate companion (SB 2012), meanwhile, was slated to appear before its final committee Wednesday. The Senate Rules Committee, however, temporarily postponed the bill.

In a tweet, Senate Spokeswoman Katie Betta said the postponement is for “planning purposes” amid a “busy rules agenda on Wednesday.”

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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