Houses passes bill prohibiting transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams
Kaylee Tuck’s transgender athlete bill clears the house Floor. Image via Colin Hackley.

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Supporters say the measure protects the integrity of women's sports.

The Florida House on Wednesday passed a bill 77-40 that would ban transgender girls from participating in women’s sports.

Supporters argued the legislation (HB 1475) will preserve the integrity of women’s sports because transgender girls have an unfair advantage. That’s despite an array of women’s sports organizations opposing the bill, and the NCAA threatening to pull all championships from the state, which could jeopardize a $75 million economic impact.

Rep. Michele Rayner, a St. Petersburg Democrat and the only gay woman in the Florida House, wept as she argued against the bill’s passage.

“As a lawyer, I have been trained not to have emotion when I debate. But we are talking about children … we are talking for children who can’t speak for themselves,” she said.

“I have struggled with this bill. I have struggled to understand why this is necessary. I have struggled to contemplate with everything going on in our state — people have job loss, people are dying of COVID — that this is the bill. And I have struggled when we know the devastating impact this will have on children, why this bill even got to the floor.”

Rep. Kaylee Tuck, a Lake Placid Republican, carried the bill and argued that “biological women” could face a competitive disadvantage competing against individuals born male, but who now identify as female. She pointed to Connecticut where two transgender athletes set state records in 15 events in which the prior records were held by eight individuals.

The legislation has been among the most controversial of the Session, generating hours of debate over amendments. House Republicans voted down 18 amendments offered by Democrats on the floor on Tuesday. Those included changes that would have carved out elementary and middle school children from the bill, prohibited genital inspections or codified the current Florida High School Athletic Association guidelines into law.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, gave an impassioned statement on the floor deriding assertions the bill in any way protected woman.

“I for one won’t be used as a political pawn for some sick political game that pits me against my sisters,” she said.

Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a Fort Myers Republican, retorted that the bill was essential to ensure Title IX protections for female athletes remain in place. She went to college on a tennis scholarship, and she said the legislation was necessary to make sure women have equal chances for sports opportunities.

“It’s been a passion my entire life to support the participation in sports of young women,” she said. “We know what impact that can have on their lives.”

Rep. Traci Koster, a Hillsborough Republican, cited the words of famed tennis player Martina Navratilova, one of the first openly gay players to dominate the sport, who has accused trans women playing in women’s sports of “cheating.”

Rep. James Bush, a Miami Democrat, cast the only vote from his side of the aisle in favor of the bill. He argued this was primarily a safety concern.

“I stand today not as a Democrat, not as a Republican, I stand today as a concerned parent of two former college football players,” Bush said, adding that he also has been a coach and teacher.

Rayner, though, suggested this will do the opposite. She took particular issue with provisions allowing a challenge of an athlete’s identity that would let a third party inspect the genitals of a student accused of playing sports as the “wrong” gender. She labeled that as “state-sanctioned sexual assault against children.”

Under the measure, students’ schools would have to resolve disputes “by requesting that the student provide a health examination and consent form or other statement signed by the student’s personal health care provider which must verify the student’s biological sex.”

The measure provides that a student’s gender would be determined by their reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup or “normal endogenously produced testosterone levels.”

Supporters argued the bill isn’t about stopping transgender athletes from playing sports, and that trans girls still may play on boys teams by meeting certain criteria, like maintaining low testosterone and submitting to a physical exam.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat and a gay man, said that argument was laughable. He compared it to when supporters of a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage argued in 2008 that a gay man could still participate in the institution of marriage by marrying a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court since ruled that unconstitutional and the argument is widely viewed as laughable now, he said.

“Soon, the transgender community will find the same broad support now enjoyed by gays, lesbians and bisexual people,” Smith said. “Civil rights movements have taught us so many important lessons on the importance of acceptance and equality for all.”

The Florida High School Athletic Association since 2013 has had guidelines in place that allow transgender students to request to play on the team aligned with their gender identity. To do so requires affirmation of gender identity and testimony that athletes live their entire lives as a gender different than that assigned at birth.

Since then, only 11 students in Florida have asked to be allowed to compete in sports differing from the gender assigned to them at birth.

The Senate companion for this bill notably was postponed from the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday. Senate leaders say that was for “planning purposes,” but the decision to table the bill came the same day the NCAA threatened to pull its events.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, when asked about the differences in the House and Senate legislation, said that’s something to work out in conference.

“I’ve been very public that I believe that our bill is common sense, allows girls to play girls sports, protect the competitiveness of those sports,” he said. “So we’ll have to figure the rest out in the legislative process, but I support the bill we passed off the floor today.”

Notably, the Senate bill also has substantive differences, most notably allowing some transgender girls to play after a full transition if their testosterone tests at levels normally found in girls or women.

House passage drew commentary from political figures in Florida and beyond.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s sole Democrat holding statewide office, criticized the bill.

“Like many of their so-called priority issues this legislative session, the Florida Republican bill banning transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports is morally wrong and completely out of touch with real issues facing Floridians,” Fried said. “This is political opportunism at its worst and a shameful attempt to drum up controversy while marginalizing an entire community. I proudly stand with our transgender community and remain committed to inclusivity, equality, and liberty, values which this legislation infringes on.”

The NCAA also released a statement, clarifying it won’t hold events in states with laws that read like this bill.

“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 read.

___

Additional reporting from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


20 comments

  • Charles

    April 14, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    It’s the only sensible choice

  • Vivienne Lester

    April 14, 2021 at 8:38 pm

    As a black female Democrat who’s moderate on several issues, more progressive on others, I fully support the Republican position on the issue.
    We should not normalize transgenders just as we shouldn’t normalize homosexuality.
    Both go against God’s teachings.

    • Deb

      April 17, 2021 at 12:54 am

      There is nothing in the Bible about transgenders. Nothing at all. So don’t assume they are against gods teachings because that is a lie,

  • Tommy Bahama

    April 15, 2021 at 7:05 am

    What is wrong with people, so a DUDE decides HE wants to be a woman, then decides HE wants to play women’s sports, and that’s fair? God, what has this ridiculous world come to, thank God at least Florida shot this ridiculousness down!

    • Magdaer

      April 15, 2021 at 3:11 pm

      No, you see, a woman who lives as a woman is a woman. A woman who undergoes HRT/blockers does not have the advantages of testosterone, either, which is the whole point of medical transition. And a woman would rightfully want to be on women’s team if the sport is not co-ed.

      No man is “deciding to be a woman” to play women’s sports.

      Also, I believe it is more ridiculous to subject kids in sports to genital inspections if they’re accused or suspected of being the “wrong sex”. The bill also states that the parents of the accused kids will have to pay for such an invasive inspection of their child’s body out of pocket.

      Yay for forcing parents to pay for their kid’s state sanctioned sexual assault? Yay for competing teams being able to single out kids and accuse the star athlete of being trans just so their team gets an advantage by taking people off the opposing team? Yay for the extreme potential for this bill to be abused to target vulnerable kids and force some stranger to inspect their genitals? Do you see how ridiculous this bill is yet or do you believe sexual assault is okay when it’s to make sure there’s no secret trans athletes?

    • Deb

      April 17, 2021 at 12:57 am

      These are not men.. they are teens who have enough issues being different.shame on you people. Really educate yourself and stop acting like heterosexual are the only people who can have rights.

    • Amy

      April 28, 2021 at 6:56 pm

      So your solution is to force children to let strange adults look at their genitals? Really? Sexually traumatizing children is your way of preventing the scourge of trans athletes (all 11 of them)?

  • trump lost

    April 15, 2021 at 7:58 am

    There is 0.6% of the state that identify as trans. That means there is MAYBE a handful of trans athletes in Florida at any given time. Yet, here is the Fl legislature trying to “fix” another problem that doesn’t exist. In the process, they demonize and further stigmatize people suffering from conditions that are out of their control (remember, follow the science!).

    Don’t fool yourself, this nothing but transphobia. The evangelical fear mongering is leading this state.

    • Deb

      April 17, 2021 at 12:58 am

      Florida was the place I wanted to retire to but now I’m so disgusted with the politicians there and their hate towards people who aren’t hetero or bigoted just makes me sick.

  • Jendar Infadel

    April 15, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    I went full reluctant repug because of this topic and will continue to vote R until the dimocrats stop squashing women and girls SEX based rights and spaces. Florida voter.

    The ACLU’s articles are all about self-id and how that is enough: if someone declares status in the opposite biological sex class he or she is that. That’s crap.

    Did you know that the two boys in Connecticut didn’t even so much as take a hormone shot and just declared “girl gender.” They went on to win 15 titles that used to be awarded to 9-10 girls.

    • Evie Edwards

      April 18, 2021 at 7:09 pm

      I’m in support of this bill, but your information on the Connecticut runners is wrong- one runner was taking suppressive hormones (the slower of the two) and the other runner did not start taking them until junior year. Strong point, though. Also- this isn’t the only issue that will affect biological women- transgender boys (girls who identify as boy) are underrepresented, b/c they aren’t competitive with biological boys (duh), so to be more ‘inclusive’ some organizations are ALLOWING transgender boys to compete with biological girls (they are biological girls, right?) but b/c they gender identify as boy- have the ‘right’ to be on testosterone… ridiculous.

  • Magdaer

    April 15, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    This bill is absolutely vile and horrifying, especially for forcing athletes (many of which will be KIDS) to be subject to genital inspections.

    The ways this will be abused if it does ultimately get made into law are numerous and horrifying. People will absolutely be singled out, be it that one is the star athlete of a team, one is the subject of bullying/harassment, one is not “feminine enough” because she has short hair or something, or who knows what else.

    Imagine how humiliating it would be to have people question your gender and force you to undergo an invasive inspection of your privates, for whatever arbitrary reason, to prove that you’re on the correct team. This will hurt not only trans people, but cis women and girls, which this bill is supposedly protecting, by also forcing them to undergo unwanted and invasive genital inspections. Like, of course republicans would think that making cis women and girls subject to sexual assault is somehow protecting them from the supposed real predators.

    Yall shouldn’t be wanting to inspect the genitals of ANYONE, but especially not KIDS????

  • Animadversion

    April 15, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    So Florida Republicans are pedophiles?

  • Justbrowsing

    April 15, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    This is misogyny in fleek. The NCAA wants to allow transkids to dominate the womens sports while allowing the male leagues (money makers) to remain 100% male. Why is the focus on womens sports? What about integrating mens sports with women so if a transgender girl qualifies to compete with the boys they can instead of forcing them to compete with CIS girls. The majority of CIS girls are at a genetic disadvantage competing with a birth male. Libs want to keep bullying their way into womens sports but act like the mens sports is sacred. The only fair way to intergrate trans people into sports while allowing them to hide their birth gender is to have equal males and females in all sports. So that people are placed on teams based on their skill level. Half the NFL , NBA, MLB, etc will have to be female and the other half male to to keep from farming women out of sports completely.

  • Em

    April 16, 2021 at 10:20 am

    This bill requires underaged children MINORS to receive a genital check. This is state sanctioned sexual assault and grown men and women just allowed this to happen. Impossibly disappointed and incredibly angry with our state officials.

    • Deb

      April 17, 2021 at 1:06 am

      You are absolutely right. Florida is a state I will never give my vacation dollars to again. The only reason they are doing this is because they are hateful bigots and I hope they get the karma they deserve.

    • Common Sense

      April 17, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      It’s clear you either didn’t play sports or have forgotten the fact that all schools require a physical be given to each student athlete by a doctor prior to that student’s participation in a school’s sports program.

  • David Palmer

    April 18, 2021 at 9:14 am

    “House passes bill prohibiting boys from playing on girls’ sports teams.”
    There. Fixed it for you.

    • Amy

      April 28, 2021 at 6:57 pm

      “House passes bill allowing forced genital inspections of children.”

      Fixed again.

  • Lisa Ben

    April 18, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    Headline should read “House stops men from ruining women’s sports”

Comments are closed.


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