Florida Republicans send transgender sports bill to Governor

LGBTQ youth
LGBTQ advocates are enraged over the '11th hour' attempt.

A ban on transgender athletes came back from the presumed dead in the form of a last-minute amendment. Both chambers supported the amendment and the underlying bill Wednesday night. The issue now rests on the Governor’s desk.

If Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the measure, it would take effect July 1.

The amendment, which passed mostly along party lines in both chambers, establishes the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The law would keep transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports.

Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck added the late filed amendment to a bill (SB 1028) dealing with charter schools.

While most arguments in support of the ban center on fairness to cisgender women, Sen. Kelli Stargel, responding to questions from Democratic lawmakers, expanded the argument to include safety issues.

“I feel that the safety of our girls to be able to play in girls’ sports without potentially being harmed by a much stronger man, who may be playing on that sport, or whether it’s a transition female that may still be stronger,” Stargel said.

During debate on the Senate floor, Democratic Sen. Vic Torres, arguing against the ban, said his granddaughter is transgender.

“We don’t need to destroy the lives of those children and their futures. If they want to play let them play. They’re in our armed forces right now,” Torres pleaded. “They are part of society.”

Emotions were high during Torres’ plea. Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell was escorted off the Senate floor in tears. She later crossed party lines to vote against the amendment.

Language in the amendment is similar to a bill (HB 1475) that passed the House mostly along party lines earlier in the Session, but did not have support in the Senate. A major difference in the amendment is that students would not be subject to a physical examination to resolve gender disputes. Instead, the amendment states a student’s gender would be decided by their original birth certificate.

“We were worried about the invasiveness of verifying biological sex,” Tuck explained.

The new amendment also does not include elementary school students, which the previous bill did.

Brandon Rep. Andrew Learned said the original birth certificate requirement would penalize adopted children who don’t have an original birth certificate. Learned asked for the bill to be tabled until the issue could be sorted out, which Tuck declined to do.

“I really wish we had a chance to work this out before we had to be on microphones talking about it, because I think it’s a really important issue that’s going to affect a lot of kids across the state of Florida,” Learned said while debating on the House floor.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith offered two amendments to what he called Tuck’s “11th-hour” amendment. Guillermo Smith’s amendments, neither of which passed, would have kept some pathways for transgender athletes to compete in women’s and girls’ sports.

LGBTQ advocacy groups quickly issued statements condemning the amendment shortly after it was revealed Wednesday. Gina Duncan, Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality, released a statement while debate was still occurring on the House floor.

“In the 11th hour of the 2021 legislative session, Florida lawmakers are still hellbent on passing this discriminatory bill,” Duncan said. “Despite hearing the voices of trans kids and their families time and time again, extremists in the legislature have made it their mission to make trans children pawns in their culture war. Now, instead of being open about their bigotry, they are negotiating the future of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in smoke-filled back rooms and attempting to attach this amendment to a completely unrelated bill.”

Florida’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act comes after a federal judge in Connecticut dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prevent transgender athletes from competing in high school girls’ sports.

The lawsuit, brought by two cisgender women who had lost track competitions to two transgender women, was dismissed on procedural grounds. The judge said because all of the athletes had graduated there was no dispute to resolve.

Arguments on both sides centered around Title IX, a federal law that requires equal opportunities for women and girls in education, including sports.

Supporters of the ban say transgender athletes have an unfair advantage, which violates the rights of cisgender women under Title IX.

People who oppose the ban say, under Title IX, the rights of transgender women are being denied.

The ban is not unique to Florida. Republican legislatures in more than 20 states have brought legislation to ban or limit transgender athletes. The laws have been signed in West Virginia, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.

The Senate’s original postponement of the last bill came after the NCAA released a statement seeming to threaten a boycott of states that pass a transgender ban.

“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 NCAA Board of Governors wrote in a memo.

The NCAA has taken similar action before. The athletic association moved a championship out of North Carolina in 2016 after that state restricted bathroom access for transgender people.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for FloridaPolitics.com. Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected].


  • tom palmer

    April 28, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    Unsurprising normal dishonest Tallahassee politics.

  • PeterH

    April 29, 2021 at 11:43 am

    There is absolutely no proof that transgender women outperform gender women in sports. Opponents of the measure cannot point to a single instance where a transgender male to female athlete outperformed and successfully surpassed a female athlete. This is a regressive legislative enactment designed to isolate and stigmatize individuals. Republicans only pretend to be the party of liberty and freedom. Congratulations Florida ….. it’s official….. you’ve finally aligned with the remaining few ‘stupid states’ in America. I sincerely hope businesses and particularly the sports world severely boycotts this State…… which they will ….. when and if DeSantis signs this bill into law.

    • BM

      April 29, 2021 at 11:48 am

      This is a ridiculous comment, that biological males won’t outperform biological females. Of course there is evidence to support this. Discrimination against anyone is not right, including discrimination in sports against biological females. Bravo Florida for standing up for biological female rights!

  • BM

    April 29, 2021 at 11:46 am

    This is common sense. A biological male competing against biological females is simply unfair to females. Allowing this would be discrimination against biological females. I am sensitive to the struggles of transgender people, but you would think that minority groups would not want to propagate discrimination…

  • PeterH

    April 29, 2021 at 11:55 am

    Your comment is a conspiracy theory. You can’t point to a single instance where a transgender male to female outperformed a genetically born female. There have been plenty of ‘complaining’ from girls …… but in each and every case the complaining female was outperformed by another female.

    • BM

      April 29, 2021 at 12:06 pm

      A transgender female is not the same as a biological female. The statement “the complaining female was outperformed by another female” is a lie. All of sports is divided into male and female, because of the simple FACT that biological males are stronger and faster than biological females. This is not a slight on biological females, it is simply a fact. Allowing biological males to compete with biological females is unfair and discriminatory against biological females. If you disagree, why don’t you provide a link to a reputable non-bias study saying showing evidence that biological males are not stronger and faster than biological females. I don’t support discrimination against Trans people, but the answer to inclusion is not to discriminate against non-Trans people.

  • PeterH

    April 29, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Your response is not based on any verifiable fact. Your response is based on supposition and right wing hate group talking points. The first step in the transition is not surgical….. it is hormonal treatment. Hormones are injected to reduce facial hair and widen hips etc.

    Your supposition is a manufactured argument that predicts when a male’s outside appearance looks like a female that the hormonal female is absent from the equation. This is simply not true.

    Furthermore there are plenty of biological females who can outperform males in ANY discipline…… including but not limited to sports. Excluding individuals based on appearance is discriminatory.

    • JeffS

      April 29, 2021 at 2:45 pm

      Wow, PeterH. Have you ever watched an LPGA golf tourney? There’s a reason the ladies tees are moved up compared to the men’s. It’s not because of their skirts (appearance, as you say…). It’s because they’re not driving golf balls 350+ yards… If professional male golfers taking hormones could hit from the ladies tees, well, that might be the end of women’s professional golf…
      You could say the same about the WNBA (although we may finally see some dunks, which would be cool…), women’s tennis, swimming, soccer (I don’t think Megan Rapinoe would make the men’s US soccer team), etc etc etc.

      • JeffS

        April 29, 2021 at 2:49 pm

        Verifiable Fact:
        Women’s 100m Sprint World Record = 10.49s (Florence Griffith-Joyner, USA, 1988)
        Men’s 100m Sprint WR = 9.58s (Usain Bolt, Jamaica, 2009)

        • PeterH

          April 30, 2021 at 4:23 pm

          That nice! However Florence wasn’t competing against Usain. They were never in the same competition!

  • JR

    April 29, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    There’s nothing quite like saying, “You’re a terrific, incredible athlete… but you’ll NEVER be better than a biological male … not even ones that take hormones that might reduce their ability to perform. You’re just not that good. But you’re awesome,” to your daughters than making a law about it. Nice work. Maybe if we stop worrying about what men and women can and can’t do and stop worrying about who’s “harder, better, faster, stronger” we’ll actually create some true equality. Naahhhh… y’all will figure out some other way to keep the “fairer sex” at bay.

  • PeterH

    April 29, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks for your comment but I’m certain that there are some women who can drive a golf ball the distance a man can hit one. I’m also certain that Megan Rapinoe could compete against a professional male soccer team. This issue is about discrimination. There is zero evidence that transgender citizens of our great country physically outperform in sports or any other area of the American experience.

    • James Hurst

      April 29, 2021 at 5:24 pm

      Here’s verifiable facts:

      Since 2017, two males who identify as female have taken 15 women’s state championship titles in Connecticut. Smith’s frustration led her last February to join with two other elite Connecticut runners, Selina Soule and Chelsea Mitchell, to file a federal discrimination complaint against Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender competition against females. The girls explained that the suit alleges the policy unfairly marginalized them and violated Title IX, the federal law designed to ensure equal opportunities for females in education and school-based athletics.

      On Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden issued an executive order saying a court case about transgender rights applies to Title IX, a federal education law that prevents discrimination based on sex. Elite female athletes such as Smith, Mitchell and Soule say Biden’s pro-transgender order underscores their concerns.

      Mitchell said she was ranked as the fastest girl in the 55-meter dash in Connecticut high school track in 2019. “Then I went to a high school competition, competing with two biological males who identify as girls,” she said. “I really put my all into it, [but] I ultimately came in third, behind the both of them.”

      Soule said she missed an opportunity to qualify for the New England state championship in 2019 by one spot: “Both spots above me were taken by biological males.”

  • PeterH

    April 30, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    Selina Soule and Chelsea Mitchell both lost more than a few competitive races against biological females. Perhaps they’re competitive abilities lack in their performance. Instead of government interference in something they know nothing about…. perhaps the sports world should and could make their own decisions based on logical non-discriminatory hateful policies.

    • BM

      May 1, 2021 at 10:35 am

      It’s not that a biological female can never beat a biological male. Sure, that can happen. But looking comprehensively, biological males will have overwhelming physical advantages over biological females. JamesH cites just a few examples. It is incredibly unfair to give these advantages to a trans female, this is pure discrimination, which if anything trans people should be against. Your focus should be on minimizing true trans discrimination, not fighting for discrimination against you biological counterparts.

Comments are closed.


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