Florida Just Passed a Transgender Athlete Ban — Here's a Timeline of How That Happened

A 2018 rally for trans rights in Washington, D.C.EXPAND
A 2018 rally for trans rights in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Ted Eytan/Flickr
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More than two dozen states, including Florida, introduced laws this year to impose restrictions on transgender athletes.

Two Florida Republican lawmakers, Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Kaylee Tuck, filed legislation in early March to bar transgender girls from playing on girls' sports teams in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools. Supporters of the legislation say they're trying to maintain the integrity of competitive, segregated sports and argue that transgender female athletes have an unfair advantage over cisgender females, partly because of hormonal differences.

The proposals sparked an outcry from activists and Democratic lawmakers, and the measure was considered effectively dead earlier this month. But by way of some legislative trickery, part of the bill was tacked on as an amendment to a bill about charter schools. This week the Republican-led Florida legislature passed that bill — including the amendment banning transgender girls from playing on female sports teams. (The legislation regulates athletes who transition from male to female but lacks any similar conditions for athletes who transition from female to male.)

Here's a timeline of what happened with Florida's transgender athlete bill.

The bill was filed March 2. The original text of Senate Bill 2012, dubbed the Promoting Equality of Athletic Opportunity Act, required the strict separation of male and female sports teams in public elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools. The proposal required transgender female athletes to take monthly testosterone-level tests to determine their eligibility to play on female sports teams. Arguing that higher testosterone levels make transgender girls better at sports than cisgender girls, transgender female athletes whose testosterone exceeded a certain level would have been suspended from competition in their sport for one year. The bill also created a path for cisgender students to seek legal action against a school that allowed transgender female athletes who exceeded testosterone requirements to play.

A House version of the bill, House Bill 1475, would have subjected transgender female athletes to genital inspections.

After the House bill passed, advocates railed against the proposals. The Florida House of Representatives passed its version of the transgender athlete ban in mid-April, a decision transgender advocates said would cause more harm to an already vulnerable community.

"Instead of helping the most marginalized and most victimized people to live a better life, they're attacked," Tony Lima, chief operating officer of Arianna's Center, a Fort Lauderdale organization that provides services for transgender women of color, told New Times earlier this month.

The Senate bill stalled. On April 20, Sen. Kelli Stargel temporarily postponed Senate Bill 2012, which had been on the agenda for the Senate Rules Committee to discuss. Stargel, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that her primary focus was passing the state's budget and that it wasn't clear if there would be enough time to revisit the bill before the legislative session ended on April 30.

Like a zombie, the bill rose again. At the eleventh hour, Republicans in the Florida Legislature practically forced the transgender sports ban into law. House and Senate Republicans introduced the ban as an amendment to a bill about charter schools, and on Wednesday, the amendment and the bill passed, but not without impassioned objections from Democrats.

Sen. Victor Torres of Kissimmee talked about his transgender granddaughter and urged his fellow senators to vote against the amendment. Torres read a note from his daughter, former state Rep. Amy Mercado, about the plight of trans children and their parents.

"As the mom of a trans daughter, it is very important for me to share the reality of my daughter's experience," Mercado's wrote. "We have jumped through hoops for years trying to get her the care and protection she deserves. Transgender youths, like all youths, deserve the same rights, privileges and opportunities to learn teamwork, leadership, self-discipline, and build a sense of community and belonging with all their peers."

While many senators spoke out against the measure, Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, defended the amendment as pro-woman and "not anti-anything." He mentioned his two daughters, who competed in sports when they were in school. "To think about my daughters competing against biological males rubs me the wrong way," he said.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, said the transgender-athlete ban was born of ignorance.

"There is an ignorance regarding the stigma and the myriad of emotions and prejudices trans people deal with," Farmer said on the Senate floor. "Thousands of trans girls in Florida deal with depression, violence, and misunderstanding.  They're thrown out of their homes by their parents when they find out. Forty percent of trans students seriously contemplate suicide.... Who are we really protecting here? Are we protecting against anyone in reality, or are we protecting against a fear?"

The bill now heads to the governor's desk. The last step is for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign the bill into law, which is expected to happen any day now. DeSantis' office told the Miami Herald  that he supports the transgender sports ban.

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