Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a bill banning transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls, escalating a national culture war over transgender rights.
In front of a crowd of supporters inside a private high school in Jacksonville, DeSantis signed The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, saying the “integrity of competitions” was what the bill was aiming to maintain.
“I can tell you this: in Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,” DeSantis said at the event where he was joined by several prominent female Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez.
Under the bill, a transgender student athlete would have to affirm her biological sex by supplying proof such as a birth certificate. The bill also would allow another student to sue if a school allows a transgender girl or woman to play on a team intended for biological females.
The latest iteration of the legislation retained an underlying principle asserted by the bill's supporters: Biological and scientific differences between males and females made it unfair for athletes born as boys to compete on teams for girls and women.
“Let’s be very clear: Governor DeSantis and the GOP are attacking trans kids on the first day of Pride Month to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. This is part of a wave of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced nationwide as part of their culture war agenda," House Democratic Caucus Co-Leader Bobby DuBose said.
The measure approved by the GOP-led Legislature last month stripped some of the most contentious elements from a proposal approved by the House weeks before. Provisions removed included a requirement that transgender athletes in high schools and colleges undergo testosterone or genetic testing, as well as submit to having their genitalia examined.
“The message that the bill sends is an ugly message of exclusion, telling trans kids that who they are is not OK and that they need to change who they are,” said State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando who dismissed the effort as mean spirited.
But supporters in the Senate saw it differently.
“This is a pro-female, pro-woman bill,” said Sen. Keith Perry, a Republican.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, who carried the proposal in the Senate, said there was no intent to do harm to transgender children, but to recognize the physiological differences between the sexes and to give girls and women an equal opportunity to excel in sports.
“We’re not trying to make them feel rejected,” said Stargel, a Republican from Central Florida who was also at the bill signing Tuesday.