(SS) The Florida House voted Wednesday to block transgender children from playing on sports teams that align with their gender.
The bill, a Republican push to ban transgender athletes from joining girls’ and women’s school sports teams, has become a hot topic — even as the bill’s sponsors admit that transgender girls competing on girls’ teams haven’t caused any problems.
One day before the Florida House took up the bill, the National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Governors said it would consider pulling championships from states that ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports. An NCAA boycott could cost Florida 50 tournaments and $75 million over the next five years, lawmakers say.
State representatives discussed the bill for nearly four hours on Tuesday. Democratic lawmakers offered up 18 amendments they said would address the concerns about transgender athletes competing in a more nuanced way than the bill’s blanket ban.
All 18 failed.
The bill’s sponsors argue that what they’ve named the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” is needed to protect girls who could be denied athletic opportunities if they had to compete against transgender girls who were assigned male at birth.
Critics say the proposal is part of a bigoted movement that targets young and vulnerable transgender students and proposes “solutions” where there aren’t problems.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, denied that the bill would ban transgender girls from playing. She argued that the bill “does not even mention the transgender language” and repeatedly referred to transgender girls using an anti-trans slur: “biological males.”
Florida is one of 16 states where high school athletic associations provide guidance that allows transgender students to join sports teams that align with their gender identity, according to the website Transathlete, which tracks such policies. The FHSAA requires documentation of “consistent identity and expression” and medical information as part of its process to clear transgender students to play on sports teams.
The amendments appeared to address the bill’s concerns about transgender athletes. They proposed adopting the NCAA’s language on the use of hormone replacement therapy and testosterone blockers for transgender athletes, policies that provide ways for transgender athletes to play on high school and college teams.
That would have been a concession, said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando.
“We were told this is not a prohibition because transgender kids can still play on team sports,” he said. “I call BS. Here’s why — transgender girls are girls. They look like girls. They go to the girls’ restroom. And yes, they play on girls’ teams. It is not a fair concession to say well the trans girls can still play. They can play on the boys’ team.”
He compared it to North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom bill from years ago. “It’s like saying trans people can use public restrooms. The trans women can go to the men’s room. We’re not banning them from using public restrooms ... It’s absurd.”
Other amendments pointed out that the bill would force both transgender and cisgender girls — meaning their gender aligns with the one they were assigned at birth — to undergo invasive examinations of their genitals just to “prove” they’re allowed to play on the team. Such procedures could further traumatize transgender children experiencing gender dysphoria and survivors of sexual assault. One amendment, proposed by Rep. Kristen Aston Arrington, D-Kissimmee, suggested providing a birth certificate instead of the invasive exams.
“I think it’s disgusting that this bill allows the big government to peek inside little girl’s panties,” she said.
Florida’s House bill is similar to legislation passed in Idaho, which was quickly challenged in federal court and is now on hold after a judge ruled the state cannot ban transgender students from sports teams. Similar bans have been signed into law by Republican governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. Lawmakers are debating them in dozens of other states.
A Senate version (SB 2012) that is still in committee would allow transgender athletes to join girls’ or women’s teams if their testosterone levels are below a certain limit for a year before they begin the competition.