Transgender athlete ban hits Gov. DeSantis’ desk

LGBTQ youth
The hotly contested ban could face court challenges as it has in other parts of the country.

A bill that includes a provision banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports was moved to the Governor’s desk Friday.

DeSantis has until June 12 to sign or veto the bill.

The much-talked-about ban on transgender athletes came back from the presumed dead this Session in the form of a last-minute amendment tacked onto a bill that makes changes to charter schools, Senate Bill 1028. That bill is what’s sitting on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

DeSantis, in a Fox News interview in April, said he would sign the ban.

But LGBTQ advocacy groups, who strongly opposed the Legislation this Session, are still pleading with the Governor to reconsider.

“Today, the cruel transgender youth sports ban has been sent to the Governor and he has yet to meet with transgender youth or the families affected by this dangerous and unnecessary attack,” Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director of Equality Florida, said in a written statement Friday. “It is not too late to signal that Florida is a state that is open for all, including our state’s most at-risk youth.”

Harris Maurer ended his statement by calling on Gov. DeSantis to meet with transgender athletes.

Equality Florida attempted to schedule meetings with lawmakers and transgender youth during Session, but Harris Maurer said several lawmakers who supported the legislation would take the meetings only after they had already voted.

The strategy follows that of LGBTQ advocacy groups in other states that have had similar legislation. The Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, did meet with transgender youth, and after that meeting vetoed the Arkansas bill citing government overreach, but the Arkansas Legislature overrode the veto.

Overall, Republican legislatures in more than 20 states have brought legislation to ban or limit transgender athletes. Besides Arkansas, the laws have been signed in Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. South Dakota’s Governor issued an executive order in the same vein.

Florida’s pocketbook could also be hanging in the balance. Statements from the NCAA indicated the collegiate sports organization could keep its lucrative championships out of Florida’s stadiums if the ban is passed.

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.

“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.

Court challenges in other states, so far, have not had any definitive outcomes on the issue.

A U.S. appeals court in Idaho is considering that state’s ban on transgender athletes, but the judge, at a hearing in early May, focused at one point on whether the case was still relevant because one of the plaintiffs, Lindsay Hecox, had dropped out of Boise State University after failing to qualify for the women’s cross country team. Her attorney said Hecox planned to return in the fall and try out for the team again.

It’s possible the court could rule the case is no longer relevant and dismiss it without ruling on its merits, which is what happened to a similar case in Connecticut. In that case a federal judge 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 girls and women 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.

President Joe Biden, on Inauguration Day, signed an executive order that upheld the arguments in the Connecticut case that said the ban denies the rights of transgender women under Title IX.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for 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].


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