Activists attend a #ProtectTransKids rally outside Orlando City Hall after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a ban on transgender girls from competing in girl’s and women’s sports during a new coronavirus pandemic, June 1, in Orlando, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press)

DeSantis OKs limits on trans athletes

BOBBY CAINA CALVAN | Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s Republican governor signed a bill June 1 barring transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams intended for student athletes identified as girls at birth, plunging the state into the national culture debate over transgender rights.

“In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said as he signed the bill into law at a private Christian academy in Jacksonville that would not be subject to the law. “We’re going to make sure that that’s the reality.”

The new law, sure to be challenged as unconstitutional, inflames an already contentious discussion unfolding nationally as Republican-controlled states move to limit the rights of LGBTQ people, whose advocates were especially frustrated that the legislation was signed on the first day of Pride Month.

The NCAA, which oversees college athletics, has said it has “a long-standing policy that provides a more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports.” The NCAA currently requires transgender women to get treatment to lower their testosterone levels before they can compete in women’s sports.

When the Florida Legislature was considering the measure in April, the NCAA said it would commit championship games to “locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”

High-profile athletic events, such as football bowl games and basketball tournaments, generate millions of dollars for local communities.

The measure approved by the GOP-led Legislature takes effect July 1. It says a transgender student athlete can’t participate without first showing a birth certificate saying she was identified as a girl when she was born. It’s not clear whether athletes must show their birth certificates, or only those whose gender is questioned.

The proposal allows another student to sue if a school allows a transgender girl or woman to play on a team intended for students identified as female at birth.

The final wording of the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” stripped away some of its most contentious elements, including a requirement that transgender athletes in high schools and colleges undergo testosterone or genetic testing and submit to having their genitalia examined.

But the legislation signed by the governor advances an underlying principle asserted by supporters: Biological differences make it unfair for athletes identified as boys at birth to compete on teams for girls and women. The law would not bar female athletes from playing on boys or men’s teams.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said the new law would not only harm transgender girls. “All Floridians will have to face the consequences of this anti-transgender legislation — including economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation.”

Democrats and LGBTQ advocates said the law is discriminatory and will be challenged in court as unconstitutional.

“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-op on the first day of Pride Month,” said state Sen. Shevrin Jones. “At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids.”