Florida has become the latest US state to ban transgender girls and women from competing in female sports.
The new law states that athletes must play on the teams of the biological sex on their birth certificate.
As the new bill was signed into law at a Christian academy in Jacksonville on Tuesday, which marked the start of Pride Month, Republican governor Ron DeSantis said: “In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports. We’re going to make sure that that’s the reality.”
He continued: “We believe that is very important that the integrity of these competitions are preserved. We’re gonna go based on biology, not based on ideology when we’re doing sports.”
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which is sure to be deemed unconstitutional, says sports teams for girls and women “may not be open to students of the male sex”. It’s not been made clear if all female athletes must now show their birth certificates to be in sports teams, but it would not bar them from playing on male-specific teams.
Coming into effect on 1 July, the law a;sp allows students to take legal action against their institution if they believe it has violated the act and “deprived” them of an “athletic opportunity” by allowing a transgender girl or woman play on a team that’s ‘intended’ for biological females.
Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President, said the new law would not just harm transgender athletes, and warned that Florida will have to “face the consequences of this anti-transgender legislation – including economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation.”
LGBTQ+ activists and Democrats criticised the discriminatory law and said that it will be challenged in court as unconstitutional.
Democratic Senator Shevrin Jones said in a statement: “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. At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids.”
Florida state representative Carlos Smith called the bill “appalling” before adding: “If GOP lawmakers would have spent half as much time helping Floridians struggling with economic issues as they spent pushing trans kids out of school sports, our state would be much better off.”
Very proud of all of the trans leaders and allies who came together on short notice to speak out against and condemn @GovRonDeSantis for signing the trans sports ban into law.
When trans kids are under attack, what does Orlando do? 🏳️⚧️
Stand up! Fight back!
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) June 2, 2021
Kelli Stargel, a Republican who championed the bill, said it was “simply” about making sure women can safely compete, “have opportunities and physically be able to excel in a sport that they trained for, prepared for and work for.”
She also said the bill isn’t “about anybody being discriminated against,” it’s “solely so that women have an opportunity to compete in women’s sports.”
David continued: “Gov DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are legislating based on a false, discriminatory premise that puts the safety and well-being of transgender children on the line. Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team.”
Idaho became the first US state to pass a similar law last year, and 20 more states have considered bans on transgender women and girls from playing in women’s sports teams. Bans have been enacted in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.