Sex & Gender

Florida's Transgender Athlete Ban Seems Unlikely to Become Law

Photo by Delia Giandeini/Unsplash
The bill would have set testosterone-level requirements for trans female athletes to be eligible to compete.
After intense outcry from the LGBTQ+ community, the Florida Senate has moved to postpone a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender girls and young women from competing on female sports teams at Florida public schools.

This morning, state Sen. Kelli Stargel temporarily postponed Senate Bill 2012, the Promoting Equality of Athletic Opportunity Act, which she had sponsored and was on the agenda to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee. The bill and its companion legislation in the Florida House sought to limit participation in scholastic sports by transgender girls and young women in K-12 schools and state colleges.

With the end of the legislative session quickly approaching on April 30 and no more meetings scheduled for the Rules Committee this session, the bill is unlikely to be heard again and is effectively dead.

In a written statement, Stargel, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that her primary focus right now is to pass the state's budget and that she does not know if there will be enough time to revisit SB 2012 before the end of the legislative session.
In its original form, the bill would have set testosterone-level requirements for trans female athletes to be eligible to compete. Those athletes would have had to show testosterone levels below a certain threshold for at least a full year before their first competition and then submit to monthly testosterone exams thereafter.

SB 2012 was part of a larger movement among conservative lawmakers to pass legislation limiting the participation of transgender women on female sports teams. Proponents of those bills argue that trans female athletes have an unfair advantage in athletic ability over their cisgender counterparts, in part because of hormonal differences. Many of the bills include language about fairness and equity for women in sports.

In her statement today, Stargel said she still believes in her bill's written intent and the assertion that in some cases, transgender women can have significant physical differences compared to cisgender female athletes.

"I believe Florida should protect the ability of girls and women to safely participate in athletics, and I think there is consensus among my colleagues surrounding the underlying policy objective," Stargel wrote. "We want to get there in a manner that respects the inherent dignity of each person, while at the same time acknowledging the fact that biological differences between men and women can be significant and can vary based on how far along a person is within their transition."

Stargel's shift to postpone the bill comes only days after SB 2012's companion bill passed in the Florida House with a 77-40 vote.

House Bill 1475 sought to further restrict transgender participation in athletics, with no provision for the testosterone testing that could allow some trans athletes to compete. Under the House bill's language, in cases where an athlete's sex was disputed, they would have had to affirm their sex by way of a genetic test or an examination of their "reproductive anatomy" by a healthcare professional. The language drew harsh criticism from trans advocates, who saw the provision as an invasion of student privacy.

Stargel filed an amendment to her bill last night that excluded the provision on genital examination and genetic testing.
Although HB 1475 passed last week, without a companion bill moving forward in the Senate, the legislation is essentially moot. Bills must pass in both parts of the legislature before they can reach the governor's desk and be signed into law.

Equality Florida, a nonprofit group that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, said in a written statement that it's monitoring the situation to see if Stargel's bill will be revived, which could happen if state senators schedule an extra meeting of the Rules Committee before April 30.

"With the temporary postponement of SB 2012 and the subsequent statements from Senator Stargel, it appears that the overwhelming opposition to the Trans Youth Sports Ban makes it unlikely to move forward. We will continue monitoring to ensure that no other procedural moves can resurrect it," says Gina Duncan, director of transgender equality for Equality Florida.

Elijah Manley, a nonbinary House candidate who lobbied against the bill, sees the postponement as a win but expects the topic of transgender athletes will likely come up again in 2022.

"I think we need to stay on guard though and be prepared for this legislation to come up in next session," Manley tells New Times. "I don't think this bill is going away."