Determined to cancel transgender athletes, Republicans in Florida pushed forward new restrictions on school sports.
Tacked on to a bill involving charter schools, the trans youth sports ban was passed by the House and Senate on Wednesday. SB 1028 is now en route to the governor’s mansion for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature.
“The Senate passes the Trans Youth Sports Ban,” tweeted Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. “For the first time in 23 years this FL Legislature has sent an anti-LGBTQ bill that categorically discriminates to the governor’s desk.”
Passing on mostly party lines, the bill was resurrected by Representative Kaylee Tuck (R-Lake Placid) who declared she was “proud to run this important legislation on behalf of all women and girls who deserve to compete on a level playing field.”
As a compromise, Tuck said birth certificates would be used to determine gender in place of previously proposed medical examinations. Trans females are left to play either co-ed sports or sign-up with male teams. The bill applies to public school-sponsored prep and college sports, intramural and club teams.
Representative Carlos G. Smith (D-Orlando) pushed back all session long against attacks on trans youth. On Wednesday, an exasperated Smith tweeted, “I wish they’d spent half as much time trying to fix unemployment as they did obsessing over and humiliating vulnerable children.”
Emotions got raw on the Senate floor as Sen. Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee), who has a trans granddaughter, asked his colleagues to “kill” the bill. “We don’t need this,” Torres said. “We thought it was dead, obviously some don’t care.”
Republicans constructed their narrative without any tangible examples of unfair advantages. Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) got the ball rolling early in the session with SB 2012. When that bill got locked away in the Rules committee, Stargel pounced on the amended SB 1028, stating the intention is for women to be able to participate, compete and receive scholarships with other “women of like strength capabilities.”
“I thought it was common knowledge that men are stronger than women,” Stargel said. “We’re just trying to protect them.”
While she convinced a majority of her Senate colleagues of preconceived dangers with allowing trans athletes to compete, Stargel couldn’t get her entire family on board. Laura Stargel, the senator’s daughter, noted Florida stands to lose 40 regional or national NCAA championship events if the bill is signed into law.
“Not only is it transphobic and harmful to sports for all in Florida, it’s economically damaging,” Laura Stargel tweeted.
And if they leave, Senator Shevrin Jones doesn’t blame them.
“Cancel culture my ass!” Jones tweeted. “I hope every large corporation take their money elsewhere. Don’t come to Florida until they learn how to treat people!”
And then there were those who took glee in Wednesday’s outcome. Orlando attorney and longtime anti-LGBT activist John Stemberger tweeted, “BREAKING NEWS: The @FLSenate just voted to pass out a bill to ban men from playing in women’s sports.”
This year five states — Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee — have prohibited trans girls and women from playing sports or receiving medical attention. The tactic has not gone unnoticed at the White House. During his joint address to Congress on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden urged the Senate to pass the Equality Act.
“To all the transgender Americans watching at home — especially the young people who are so brave — I want you to know that your President has your back.”