Florida Transgender Sports Ban Advances Despite Potential Backlash

Women playing lacrosse
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Florida Republicans are advancing bills banning transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports despite – perhaps, in spite of – potential corporate criticism and likely sanctions by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“I certainly couldn’t care less,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said Wednesday after the House approved the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act in a 77-40 vote after a four-hour debate in which 18 amendments were rejected.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, House Bill 1475, filed by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, would enact a blanket ban on transgender athletes competing as women in Florida. Transgender athletes could still compete in men’s sports.

HB 1475 advances to the Senate where a bill that allows some transgender females to play girls’ sports, Senate Bill 2012, is one step away from a chamber vote. SB 2012’s Wednesday hearing before the Senate Rules Committee was temporarily postponed.

The NCAA on Monday said it is considering pulling events from states that pass bills limiting transgender participation. The association has scheduled more than 40 regional and national championships in Florida between 2022-26.

“We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants,” the association said.

More than 65 corporations, including Facebook, Pfizer, Dell, Hilton, Unilever, Dow, Apple, Microsoft, AT&T and American Airlines, in March issued a joint statement condemning bills filed in at least 33 states placing restrictions on transgender people, including banning transgender females from girls’ sports.

“We are deeply concerned by the bills being introduced in state houses across the country that single out LGBTQ individuals – many specifically targeting transgender youth – for exclusion or differential treatment,” the statement said.

The statement drew immediate rebuke from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Our process is governed by people that get elected and that are trying their best,” he said. “It is not governed by large corporations and, so, that is not going to be the policy in Florida.”

On Tuesday, former governor, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, tweeted, “The @NCAA likes to threaten FL and other states. Well, here’s a threat to the NCAA — the American people are not going to allow biological males to compete in women’s sports. It’s not going to happen.”

“The state of Florida is not going to be bullied by any corporate actor,” Sprowls said after Wednesday’s vote. “They can send out as many press releases or tweets as they like. It will not impact what we do in the way of policy in the state of Florida.”

HB 1475 passed in a near-total partisan tally with one Democrat, Rep. James Bush, Miami, voting yes.

Proponents maintain HB 1475 ensures an even playing field, noting transgender girls won the 2017 Connecticut track and field state championships.

“This particular bill is not about exclusion and it is not about discrimination. This bill is about a biological and scientific difference between men and women,” said Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce.

Opponents argued the bill has nothing to do with fairness.

“I don’t care how many times you tell yourself this is about women’s sports,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando. HB 1475 is “another avenue to attack the rights of trans people. We lose the right to say we care about our kids if we pass this bill out of this chamber.”

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said transgender students have been playing sports under rules adopted by the Florida High School Athletic Association since 2013. Only 11 transgender students have applied for eligibility.

“There’s been no problems,” Smith said.

True, Tuck said, but lawmakers should be “proactive” in ensuring “biological males” with physical advantages over “biological females” compete only against “biological males.”

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