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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida Is Latest State To Ban Transgender Girls From Female Sports

 A referee holds a basketball while looking at the court from the sideline.
Gene Gallin
A referee holds a basketball while looking at the court from the sideline.

The new law requires that student athletes participate in the sport that aligns with the biological sex issued on their birth certificates.

It’s Pride Month and Gov. Ron DeSantis marked the occasion by signing a new law that bans transgender girls from participating in women's sports. Florida is the 8th state to enact such a ban. Speaking in Jacksonville, DeSantis dismissed a question about the timing of the timing of the bill signing.

“It’s not a message about anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness in women sports. We believe that it's important to have integrity in the competition and we think it's important they’re able to compete on a level playing field, and you see what happens when you don’t have that," he said.

The new law says student athletes must participate in the sport that aligns with the biological sex issued on their birth certificates. The NCAA has threatened to pull championships from states that pass such polices.

"If the price of that is to lose an event or two, I would chose to protect our girls every day of the week and twice on Sunday," DeSantis said in response to the NCAA's threat.

The governor was joined at Tuesday's press conference at Trinity Christian Academy by bill sponsors, Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland and Rep, Kaylee Tuck of Lake Placid. Also on hand was Selina Soule, a track athlete from Connecticut who sued the Connecticut Association of Schools over its policy allowing transgender athletics to compete in women's sports. Soule lost several championships to transgender girls.

“This bill is about protecting the advances we’ve already made as women in this space and creating a fair opportunity to empower women to aspire and to achieve in the most fair way possible,” she said. “I only wish the rest of the country would take these obvious steps to ensure fairness and equality for women and girls like me.”
Florida Senate Democrats criticized the legislation as being purely political and not aimed at solving a real problem. The ban was added to a bill that largely focuses on charter schools in the waning days of the legislative session that ended April 30. A stand-alone bill on the transgender issue had earlier stalled in the Senate.

“By folding the transgender ban into the charter school legislation, Republicans in Tallahassee rejected both science and reason, openly attacking vulnerable LGBTQ+ children without a single shred of evidence that a problem even exists,” the Senate Democratic caucus said in a prepared statement.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, cited potential economic fallout if the NCAA decides to pull tournaments and championship games out of Florida.

“The consequences for states that have passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws are clear — bigoted policies lead to major economic loss. Today, Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed ignorance to prevail and took our state backwards in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. We won’t forget it,” Eskamani said in a statement Tuesday.

Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Broward, issued a statement critical of the new law and DeSantis' decision to sign it on the first day of Pride Month.

"This is yet another hate-driven attack from the Governor and Republican legislators, and it’s insulting that they’ve staged this morning’s photo opp on the first day of Pride Month," Jones said.

"At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids. They need to be heard, trusted, and supported, and this law will deny kids across the state critical life lessons including teamwork, dedication, and how to lose with grace and win with humility."

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.