Florida House Passes Transgender Athlete Bill



Image of several small transgender flags.

Halle Saldivia, Reporter

On Wednesday, the Florida House passed a bill that would ban transgender women from playing on girls’ and women’s high school and college sports teams, with Democrats arguing the measure is purely political.

The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” if signed into law, would require that sports team eligibility be based on a student’s “biological sex,” which refers to the sex assigned at birth. The bill, HB 1475, is aimed at maintaining the competitive balance in women’s sports, its supporters say. Others say it’s a thinly veiled attempt to marginalize already vulnerable transgender kids and young adults. After an hour of debate, it passed the House by a vote of 77-40, with just one Democrat supporting the measure. No Republican voted against it. 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 majority party rejected the amendments without explanation or debate.

“This is about giving women and girls an equal chance to succeed. It’s simple, it’s clear, I’ve reviewed it,” said Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a Fort Myers Republican who said she played and coached tennis.

Many transgender people say the bill goes beyond the playing field to harm transgender kids. “I ask that you read this bill and recognize the threat to privacy and lack of legal protection potentially facing female athletes,” said Andrew Coleman, a transgender man who is a student at Florida State University, at a Wednesday press conference at the state Capitol. “Read this bill and recognize the perpetuating harm this legislation has to kids who just want to live.”

Critics say the proposal is part of a bigoted movement that targets young and vulnerable transgender individuals. Some Democrats took issue with part of the bill requiring examinations of students whose sex is called into question. Under the measure, students’ schools would have to resolve disputes “by requesting that the student provide a health examination and consent form or other statement signed by the student’s personal health care provider which must verify the student’s biological sex.” The measure provides that a student’s sex would be determined by their reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup, or “normal endogenously produced testosterone levels.”

“We were told this is not a prohibition because transgender kids can still play on team sports,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat 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.”

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 that the state cannot ban transgender students from sports teams. Similar bans have been signed into law by Republican governors in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.